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Press Release 1st March 2023 Cheltenham

By Ben Cox

With just 13 days until The Cheltenham Festival gets underway in 2023, a media event was staged by The Jockey Club at Cheltenham Racecourse today.


Giving the latest update on ground conditions, Cheltenham’s Clerk of the Course, Jon Pullin, said: “It has been a tricky period and we have not had any significant rainfall since the 15th of January. To put that in context, with the little drop we’ve had this morning, we’ve had 10mm of rain since January 15th while in the corresponding period last year we had 58mm.


“It has certainly been very dry, and all the team have been working exceptionally hard. Given the dry forecast and the prospect of a cold snap, we have been irrigating for a couple of weeks now to get ahead of the game.


“It is a combination of Good and Good to Soft ground at the moment. It is the same across the Old and New courses and we have also been able to irrigate the Cross Country course.


“We have fleece covers down to promote grass growth. The New Course which was used on New Year’s Day and Trials Day is not as we would have liked going into The Festival from a grass cover point of view, so have got the fleece down with germination sheets to help with grass growth.”


Ian Renton, Regional Director at the Jockey Club (Cheltenham and South West), gave an update on how the racecourse is getting ready for The Festival.


He said: “The 46,000 square metres of temporary facilities for The Festival are nearing completion and we are getting everything ready to go in 13 days’ time.


“We sold out Gold Cup Day earlier than ever this year at the end of January but there are still tickets available for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Hospitality is in very short supply.


“We had an amazing year in 2022 with 280,000 people here over the four days. We felt we got away with it and had glorious sunshine on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with a very wet day on the Wednesday.


“We also felt if that it had been reversed and we had the wet day on one of our busiest days with 73,000 people here then it would have been a pretty uncomfortable experience, so we have taken the decision to take 5,000 off the attendance on Thursday and Friday this year.


“We have had a brilliant relationship with Michael Wainwright (of Cheltenham Gold Cup sponsor Boodles) for a long time right back to the early days when Boodles were sponsoring the owner and trainer awards right through to their presence in The Orchard and on the sponsorship the Cheltenham Gold Cup. It has been absolutely fantastic and we are incredibly grateful to Michael and everyone at Boodles.


“Some years ago, we launched the Chez Roux restaurant. This nearly always sells out and we have around 500 people there every day and it was the first restaurant to sell out on Gold Cup Day this year.


“We felt there was an opportunity to do something even better and some time ago we spoke to Clare Smyth, who is from Northern Ireland and the UK’s only chef with three Michelin stars. We had a chat with Clare about whether she would be interested in coming to Cheltenham. She said yes and we are delighted to welcome her here. She will be here on the Monday before The Festival and we have done a raffle for our annual members to come and sample her food in Core On Course.


“This year Monday will be a day for the community. We have children from five different schools coming here to introduce them to racing. They see what goes on behind the scenes and hopefully get the chance to see some trainers exercising their horses.”


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