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Wednesday festival card will be moved to Saturday if winds force abandonment

The threat of strong winds has put the second day of the Cheltenham Festival in danger
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The second day of the Cheltenham Festival will be moved to Saturday if racing is abandoned due to the strong winds set to hit the track.

Eleven years after the cancellation of the festival's day-two programme due to powerful gales, the same fate could befall the card featuring the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The Met Office is expecting winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour and an inspection will be held at 8am on Wednesday, but it is possible a decision on whether racing can take place safely will be deferred until later in the day. The first race is due off at 1.30pm.

ITV is committed to televising on Saturday all five races scheduled to be shown on Wednesday but, with two Six Nations games also in its listings, not all those races are guaranteed to be on the main channel.

Jockey Club Racecourses regional director Ian Renton told the Racing Post on Tuesday: "The forecast we're receiving says the gusts of wind are going to be really localised. If those gusts hit us and stay consistently with us for the day, at the force that's being predicted, we wouldn't be able to race.

"However, it's almost impossible to be accurate about the forecast. Wind scenarios are the most difficult to predict. We'll just have to see what comes."

Renton added: "Our wish is that the winds are much lower than anticipated and we can get through the day as normal. If we find at 8am we have horrendous gales and they are forecast to continue throughout the day, we'll abandon and not open the gates.

"There is, however, the possibility that we'll be perfectly raceable in the morning but then find the gales are getting up after the gates have opened. We'd then have to take the advice of safety officers about whether we can race and whether we can have people on site."

Should Wednesday's programme be lost, Altior would seek to defend his Champion Chase crown on Saturday.

Renton said: "At the moment we're hopeful we'll be racing tomorrow but if we abandon we'd race on Saturday, when we'd stage tomorrow's card. The Thursday and Friday cards would remain as normal.

"We've spent the last few days talking to doctors, vets, ambulance providers and police to make sure they're able to provide a service. The catering teams are mostly going to be at Twickenham and Cardiff [for the Six Nations rugby], so there will be restrictions on what we'd be able to do.

"It's a nightmare scenario that none of us want to go into. Our first and foremost wish is to stage racing tomorrow, which is what we'll be trying to do, but we have a back-up plan.

"Everyone with a ticket for tomorrow would get a refund and we'd then resell Saturday as a separate day. We have price plans and they would be different to what we currently have for the festival."

Met Office forecaster Becky Mitchell said: "Generally gusts will be in the region of 40 to 50 miles per hour and we'd have a high confidence of them materialising.

"There could also be blustery showers, which would be when the wind is at its strongest."

The ground was described on Tuesday evening as soft on the Old course and soft, heavy in places on the cross-country following rain.

Seven races from Uttoxeter and Kempton are scheduled to be broadcast by ITV4 on Saturday. The network will not make firm plans until knowing if they are needed, but in between its two Six Nations matches there is a main channel window between 2.45pm and 4.15pm, during which three Cheltenham races could be shown.

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Eleven years after the cancellation of the festival's day-two programme due to powerful gales, the same fate could befall the Champion Chase card
E.W. Terms
Sky bet