Horse Talk with Simon Jackson:
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Cheltenham Racecourse has called a precautionary inspection at 8am on Wednesday March 13 due to concerns surrounding forecast strong winds.
Gust of between 40 and 50 miles per hour are predicted and officials are taking no chances amid concerns surrounding safety both on the track and other areas on the site.
“Strong gusting winds are forecast for the area on Wednesday, but their precise strength and location are not possible to predict in advance,” Ian Renton regional director for the south west region of the Jockey Club said.
“We are currently looking at forecasts of gusts in excess of 45 mph, which may present challenges out on the track and around the site, dependent on their direction. We will therefore do a precautionary inspection at 8am tomorrow (Wednesday).
“We remain optimistic and we will assess the situation in the morning, working with our team, forecasters, the British Horseracing Authority and our Safety Advisory Group, in order to make a decision about whether racing goes ahead as planned.
“It’s important to let customers and participants know the exact situation as it stands.
“While our focus is to race tomorrow, should the weather conditions not allow this we would stage the whole of Wednesday’s card on Saturday. This would allow for all seven scheduled races to be re-staged to provide participants with their opportunity to race at The Festival and with originally advertised conditions, which would not be possible in the two remaining days.”
Meanwhile, the opening day of the 2019 Festival provided a day full of upsets, none more so than the victory of 16-1 shot Espoir D’Allen in the £450,000 Grade 1 Unibet Champion Hurdle.
Espoir D’Allen, trained by Gavin Cromwell, ridden by Mark Walsh and owned by JP McManus – who was also represented by dual Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’Air who fell at the third fence – prevailed by 15 lengths in an intriguing contest where both favourite Apple’s Jade and the strongly supported Laurina failed to threaten.
The success was McManus’ eighth victory in the Champion Hurdle and 55th success at The Festival in total.
He said: “It’s great to win another Champion Hurdle. I am thrilled for Gavin and Mark. It is a big moment for them.
“It was disappointing to see Buveur D’Air fall, but that was his own making. It is of course still very nice to win the race with Espoir D’Allen.
“Any time you win the Champion Hurdle you have to enjoy it.”
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