Clerk of course Kirkland Tellwright expects ground conditions to be “no slower than soft” for the Betfair Chase at Haydock.
The first Grade One contest of the British National Hunt season, Saturday’s three-mile contest has attracted a stellar cast -with the brilliant Altior, dual winner Bristol De Mai and the exciting Lostintranslation all standing their ground at Monday’s confirmation stage.
Tellwright said: “The chase course will be no slower than soft, and it might have good to soft in places. The hurdles course looks like it will have good to soft in it.
“I think we will probably get about six millimetres of rain between now and racing – the forecast is much more cheerful than was the case on Friday.”
Bristol De Mai saw off the challenge of Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Native River, his stablemate Thistlecrack, the subsequent King George winner Clan Des Obeaux and a former King George winner in Might Bite 12 months ago – after which there was some criticism of the fences.
Nicky Henderson said in the immediate aftermath of Might Bite’s disappointing effort: “They have built us some big fences here today, and he nudged one early on – it’s not the first one of mine that has been caught out today (River Wylde fell earlier on the card).”
The obstacles at the Merseyside venue have since been switched back to a previous design.
Tellwright said: “We used to deal with leaf birch until a few years ago, then we went black birch and now we have gone back to leaf again – because last year it was argued the fences were too stiff.
“If you had the fences too small or soft the jockeys would fire the horses round and you wouldn’t get a rhythmical event appropriate for a Grade One. No one wants to cause a risk of injury, but there should be a premium for jumping well.
“Pretty much by the end of the season, we changed our mind to go back to leaf birch because we had to place an order with the supplier. For all that were pretty vigorously against the fences, some quarters defended them, so there was no single view.”
Top-class jumping fare is also set to take place at Ascot on Saturday, with the Paul Nicholls-trained Cyrname potentially clashing with Altior in the Christy 1965 Chase.
Like Tellwright, Ascot’s clerk of the course Chris Stickels is not anticipating extreme ground conditions at this stage.
He said: “The ground is soft at the moment, and the forecast is looking fairly settled for the next couple of days.
“From Thursday onwards, there is a chance of a few showers and rain – but at the moment things are looking good, and there is a chance we could have some good to soft ground tomorrow.
“It looks exciting, and I’m very much looking forward to it.”