The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival could be hit with heavy rain – according the Met Office weather forecast .
Tuesday’s curtain raiser for the 2019 festival is currently looking like it will be a wet one, with a 90% chance of downfall.
However any rain is set to clear by the afternoon, with Cheltenham racecourse bracing itself for the prospect of gales the rest of the week.
Winds reaching a peak of over 40mph are forecast for Wednesday – an uncomfortable late reminder of similar conditions which struck on the same day 11 years ago and caused the cancellation of racing.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase and other high-profile races were instead run later in the week, added to the Thursday and Friday cards.
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse, in position then and now, is reassured at this stage that the expected wind direction and geography of the course mean history should not repeat itself.
In 2008, gusts began to blow in from the east – but this time they are not likely to do so.
“I am one of the few (employees) who was here in 2008 as well,” said Claisse, who is also heartened that so far wind speeds on site have fallen short of those predicted.
He added: “Over the last three or four days we have been forecast strong winds.”But most of the site is protected when the wind comes in as it’s forecast from the west or south-west – so it’s all systems go, because we are not exposed to the same vulnerability as in 2008.
“We were forecast up to 42mph today, and we only just got to 30.”
The rain scheduled to cross the course early on Tuesday leads Claisse to anticipate resulting soft ground for the start of the four-day meeting, which he feels will remain that way throughout.
The going is currently described as good to soft, soft in places.
Claisse said: “The indications are still strong of up to 11 or 12 millimetres – half-an-inch – some time through the early hours of Tuesday, clearing by mid-day.
“That would take us towards soft ground.
“There are showers Wednesday and Thursday, so I wouldn’t expect (ground) conditions to change much through the rest of the week.”
Tuesday 12 March – Heavy rain changing to cloudy in the afternoon, 10°c
Wednesday 13 March – Yellow weather warning: strong winds expected, 10°c
Thursday 14 March – Cloudy, 11°c
Friday 15 March – Light showers changing to sunny intervals, 10°c