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Cheltenham Festival will go ah...
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Cheltenham Festival will go ahead despite coronavirus fears

Richie McCormack
Richie McCormack

16:27 26 Feb 2020

This year's Cheltenham Festival will go ahead despite concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. 

Ireland's Six Nations game with Italy on March 7 was the biggest sporting event to fall victim to fears over COVID-19.

However, Cheltenham's Regional Director Ian Renton is confident that the showpiece week of national hunt racing will remain unaffected by the virus, "We've had lots of things in the past, last year we had equine flu and high winds as a risk.

Renton told At The Races, "The previous year we had the 'Beast From The East'. We're normally set to cope with these things leading up to the Festival.

"There's always going to be some risk, but at the moment we really look forward to a fantastic festival in a fortnight's time."

When pushed on how certain he could be that the festival would go ahead, Renton responded, "There have been 13 cases of the virus in this country [UK] - long may that continue - the government are doing a great job and I'm sure they'll continue to do so."

Thirteen days out from the start of the Festival, clerk of the course Simon Claisse says the course itself is looking in good nick.

Speaking with Racing TV's Mike Vince, Claisse says the ground at Prestbury Park has been "soft and heavy" right the way through the winter.

Claisse says former jockey Ruby Walsh is "ecstatic" about the condition of the ground, adding, "We're currently calling it primarily 'soft' out there on both chase and hurdle courses.

"Cross country is probably 'soft' with a little bit of 'heavy'.

"The outlook over the next 10 days is for another 35-40ml of rain - that's about 2-inches - but that's the amount we had in the 24-hours prior to the November fixture so it doesn't cause us any concern".

Claisse says bar a potential couple of nights of snow, the signs are the weather could be milder as the festival approaches with the potential for "quick enough 'good' ground.

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Cheltenham Cheltenham Festival Coronavirus Covid-19 Horse Racing Ian Renton National Hunt Racing Ruby Walsh

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