Cheltenham officials have called a precautionary 8am inspection, and announced a contingency to postpone Wednesday’s card until Saturday, as a forecast for high winds threatens the Festival.
The course is braced for “challenging” weather conditions on day two of the showpiece meeting, with winds predicted to reach a peak of around 40 miles per hour on Wednesday morning.
Ian Renton, director for the south-west region of the Jockey Club, said: “Strong gusting winds are forecast for the area on Wednesday, but their precise strength and location are not possible to predict in advance.
“We are currently looking at forecasts of gusts in excess of 45mph, 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).”
Renton also confirmed provisional rescheduling plans.
“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,” he said.
“This would allow for all seven scheduled races to be restaged 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.”
The forecast provides 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.
Renton added: “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.”
Clerk of the course Simon Claisse had said earlier in the day: “We wanted to give an early insight into conditions for tomorrow as the forecast is looking challenging with strong, gusting winds throughout the day.
“We are continually monitoring the situation and will keep racegoers informed as the conditions present themselves.”
Expanding on plans to move to Saturday rather than split races over Thursday and Friday, Renton told Racing TV: “We have been looking at this scenario for a while now with this gale coming in, so we have been able to put in some contingencies.
“We felt able to put on the meeting on Saturday if necessary and we just felt it was infinitely preferable to have a proper day’s racing as a Festival day rather than 10- and nine-race cards.”
Asked if running on Saturday could prove a portent to having a permanent fixture moved from Wednesday to that day, Renton said: “Not at all, we feel giving a Festival day a full day is right for all the owners and trainers.
“Some people loved it (extended Thursday and Friday in 2008), but I’ve heard from others that people just prefer a full day’s racing and get their glory accordingly.”