Concern on day one at Cheltenham with early morning inspection set after parts of the course are left frozen by winter weather
07:04 GMT, 12 March 2013
08:15 GMT, 12 March 2013
Cheltenham will hold an inspection at 10.30am today ahead of what is predicted to be the coldest-ever start to the Festival.
Although the covers were put down at the track over the weekend, officials report the track to be frozen in a few places this morning after a wind chill of -12C overnight.
Over 55,000 spectators are expected to
attend the first day of the meeting when nine horses, including three
previous winners – Binocular, Hurricane Fly and reigning champion Rock
On Ruby – will line up in the Champion Hurdle.
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Clerk of the course Simon Claisse said: 'We are frozen in places but it seems to be small areas. We can't really tell the extent of the frozen areas until we start to take the covers up.
'If the weather does what we expect it to and the temperature gets up to 3C by 12 noon, we should be kicking off as planned at 1.30pm.
'The wind chill dropped to -12C overnight and it was still -9C at 5am today.
'The is sun is out now and if we get an hour or two of sunshine on it, it should start to move.
'If we get some cloud cover, the rate at which that will happen will obviously slow.'
Frozen: As many as 55,000 spectators are expected to arrive for the opening day of the Festival
Claisse says he remains 'optimistic' about the meeting going ahead as planned.
He told Channel 4's The Morning Line: '90 per cent of the course is fine but obviously we can't clear it as fit to race until it's 100 per cent OK.
'(The problem areas) tend to be on some of the take-offs and landings and some of the wider ground. We have got fresh ground seven or eight yards on the inside, but you just have to be a bit careful of a horse that's going wide.
'It's on those areas that were worn a little bit in October, November and December, that's where the frost has got in under the covers.
'We will look at everything we can possibly do to ensure the meeting goes ahead. If we have to, we will go round any fences or hurdles.
Covered up: Cheltenham remain confident that racing will go ahead on the first day of the Festival
'We are not running on the cross
country course until 4pm this afternoon and the afternoon temperature is
4C or 5C, so it may take a little bit longer to get fit when the sun
comes out, but should be OK by 4.
'I remain optimistic but you just
never quite know what is happening with this weather. Our experiences
last night were beyond anything we've seen before.'
The process of lifting the covers is
expected to be completed by 1.15pm with the traditional curtain raiser,
the William Hill Supreme Novices Hurdle, due off 15 minutes later.