The New Years Day meeting at Cheltenham is the latest meeting to be cancelled due to a waterlogged track. It comes on the back of the Welsh Grand National being cancelled on the 27th December at Chepstow for the same reason.
Whereas the Welsh National has been rescheduled for the 9th January it is unlikely the Cheltenham meeting will be rearranged, meaning no Dipper Novices’ Chase or Relkeel Hurdle this year (unless moved to other courses this month). The next meeting at Cheltenham will now be Festival Trials Day on 30th January.
It is the second time in the last decade the meeting has been cancelled, having also been called off in 2013 for a waterlogged course. It is the nature of winter meetings that there is a chance they can be subject to weather but unexpected levels of rain brought by storm Bella last week left saturated ground with further rainfall having no where to go leading to pooling on the course.
Cheltenham racecourse has experienced 145mm of rain so far in the last month with 85mm coming in the last week alone. Racing is expected to go ahead at Mussleburgh, Southwell and Exeter, although these are also in doubt due to a threat of snow and frost.
The meetings that do go ahead are all going to have soft to heavy ground and this is something to bear in mind when picking your horses.
Wetter Winters Ahead
The effects of climate change mean that Britain is expected to face longer, drier summers (great for flat racing) but also warmer, wetter winters. This could mean that waterlogged tracks become more and more common in the coming years for meetings between November and April, which could impact all jump racing, including the Cheltenham Festival.
There could come a point where racecourses need to either move meetings around or build in more robust drainage systems to cope with wetter winters in the future.
Coming on the back of a difficult year for horse racing that has seen a huge number of meetings cancelled and racing held behind closed doors, it is bad news for Cheltenham, although with the Trials meeting at the end of the month and the Festival in March it is hoped that there will be no lasting damage.