Cheltenham’s popular New Year’s Day fixture has been abandoned after a huge 145mm of rain fell on the track over the last month, causing waterlogging in places.
The card was due to feature the Relkeel Hurdle, a Grade 2 affair, as well as the Dipper Novices’ Chase at the same level and up to now there appear to be no plans to reschedule the meeting.
Whether the two big races can be rerouted to another track also remains a mystery at this point, but racing at Cheltenham was finally abandoned after a course inspection on Wednesday when clerk of the course Simon Claisse realised the track was in an unraceable state.
Trials Day Next for Cheltenham
Up to Tuesday night there was still hope of the New Year’s Day meeting going ahead, however with no improvement in the weather overnight and freezing conditions forecast it left two specific parts of the track waterlogged and in no shape to host racing.
Cheltenham are next due to put on a meeting on January 30, the Festival Trials Day fixture, which track officials are still hopeful for.
Trials Day is an important next step for many horses en-route to the Festival in March, the day being due to feature a Triumph Hurdle Trial, the Cleeve Hurdle and the Costwold Chase which could help to shape the Gold Cup market.
TV Changes as COVID Fears Also Loom Large
Cheltenham was due to be the centrepiece of terrestrial TV coverage as we see 2021 in. The loss of the fixture at Prestbury Park means ITV Racing have had to move quickly to switch things around, with Exeter and Musselburgh now thrown more into focus while dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo’s return to the track will also feature at Tramore in Ireland.
Recently the whole Gloucestershire area has seen a record rise in coronavirus cases too. Not unexpectedly but disappointingly all the same the county, specifically Gloucester, Forest of Dean, the Cotswolds, Tewksbury, Stroud and of course Cheltenham itself have been thrown into Tier 4 by the government.
A full national lockdown is now feared which could put the Cheltenham Festival into doubt, at least as far as crowds being there are concerned, and the memory of many members of the public blaming the 2020 extravaganza going ahead for the first outbreak is still fresh.
It is very much hoped that the Tier 4 restrictions now imposed alongside the rollout of the new vaccine will lead to things improving before the next meeting at the end of January, as time ticks down to March 16 and the beginning of the next Festival.