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Healthy ticket sales for The Festival & going is mostly Good to Soft

Press Release 1st March 2017 Cheltenham

Cheltenham Racecourse played host to the media today ahead of The Festival, which starts on Tuesday, March 14, and healthy ticket sales were reported.
Ian Renton, Regional Director of the South West region of Jockey Club Racecourses, related: "We are very fortunate here as we have a fantastic sporting event where everybody comes to enjoy the racing.
"We are in a great place regarding ticket sales on Gold Cup Day (Friday, March 17) as we sold out two weeks ago - two weeks ahead of last year.
"All enclosures on Gold Cup Day are now sold out. The remaining three days are in good shape and we still have tickets available in all enclosures. We are looking to sell those to try and match the record attendance (260,579) we had last year.
"We have 28 races in place over the four days and it is a fantastic programme."
Simon Claisse, Director of Racing, Jockey Club Racecourses South West, and Clerk of the Course at Cheltenham, reported the three courses at Cheltenham in great condition ahead of The Festival.
He said: "This winter has been characterised by how volatile the weather has been in terms of rainfall and temperature.
"I walked the course this morning and it is predominantly Good to Soft on the Tuesday track (the Old Course), with maybe a bit of soft here and there.
"The Cross Country Course (used on Wednesday, March 15) is also Good to Soft, with a bit of good in it.
"The New Course (used on the Thursday and the Friday) is Good to Soft, with some soft.
"The current outlook is for this rather unsettled weather to continue for about the next 10 days, with anything between 20 and 30 millimetres of rain, which, if it materialises, would be bring the going closer to soft.
"What happens after Saturday week is anybody's guess at the moment. The temperatures over the last couple of weeks have been relatively high for this time of year. The courses are looking in fantastic shape and we have cut the grass twice and expect to do so again.
"90 per cent of the area raced on for The Festival has not been used for 12 months so there is a lot of fresh ground.
"There has been more uncertainty this year because of the inaccuracy of the weather forecasts. Compared to my other 16 Festivals, the forecasts seem to have been so much more inaccurate.
"My comment about John Kettley, who does our forecasting, is he is the least inaccurate rather than the most accurate of all the forecasters we follow."
There were a couple of changes to the siting of fences before the start of the 2016/17 season and Claisse explained what has happened so far.
He said: "We moved the second last fence on the Old Course, which had been in position for six or seven years. We moved it a bit closer to the last fence.
"The jockeys felt, coming round the turn, they needed slightly more distance before the fence so they could spread out. It worked very well in October and November.
"On the New Course, we moved the fourth last, where Kauto Star fell in the Gold Cup some years ago, and that one had been slightly nearer the bend for 10 years. It worked out really well for the first five or six years as the jockeys were coming off the turn and keeping hold of their horses' heads.
"By last season, they seemed to have forgotten about that and were really kicking on into the fourth last. Quite a lot of horses were running into the bottom of the fence. So having talked to the jockeys last summer, the suggestion was to move the fence nearer the bend again.
"So there is now a short run from the apex of the bend to the fourth last. It seemed to work well in December and January so the fence remains in that position for The Festival.
"The total of 1,920 entries for The Festival this year is pretty high, the fourth highest in the last 10 years. There are a record 715 Irish entries, which is a big increase on the previous best of 647.
"I have been with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott the last two days and those two between them are bringing 70 to 80 horses over to The Festival. We are looking forward to welcoming them.
"In the championship races, all those with scratchings' stages, there are 100 more left in than at this stage last year - nearly 600 - so it is all boding very well for the start of The Festival in 13 days' time."


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