In this article, the experts at Mansion Bet share their insight into how the weather could affect a horse’s performance at Cheltenham Festival.
Cheltenham, taking place in March, narrowly misses both the frosts of February and April’s showers, so it’s usually in the sweet spot for mild weather. In fact, the races have only been abandoned three times in the past for adverse weather conditions — twice in the 1930s for extreme frost and flooding, and once in 2008 due to high winds. Despite this, the forecast for the festival may play a bigger role in the outcome of the races than whether they go ahead.
If you’re looking to pick a winner at Cheltenham, our all-inclusive guide can help. Below, I’ll highlight three ways the weather can affect a horse’s ability to race — and what that means for the Festival in 2022.
The firmness of the ground
In the UK, most horse races take place on dirt or turf — including at Cheltenham. This natural surface is safe and comfortable for horses to run on, but depending on how wet or dry the ground may be, their top speed may be affected.
Any tipster worth his salt takes the firmness of the racing ground into account, which can range from soft or heavy, to good, to firm according to the weather. This is all based on how much rain the ground has received in the weeks leading up to the event, and it is known as the going. Most race horses perform better on firm ground but some do better than others when it is soft, so their track record under these conditions is a good piece of information to factor into your research.
The racing ground will release their going before the races, but now is the ideal time to start paying attention to the weather forecast if you want to place your bets early for Cheltenham — just bear in mind how unpredictable the Great British weather can be!
Wind and precipitation
It takes more than a little wind and rain to shut down a major horse racing event like Cheltenham. Horses are even known to take to the track when it’s snowing! But aside from affecting the condition of the ground (snow can lead to very hard, frozen ground, and rain to a soft or even slippery surface), wind and precipitation can slow down certain horses.
As well as their performance on different going conditions, it can help to look into a horse’s stamina during very windy or rainy races. The effect of this kind of weather may be minimal, as horses are bred to withstand the elements. But when it comes to photo finishes, a few fractions of a second lost when tired out by wind or rain could make all the difference to the outcome of the race.
If you’re attending Cheltenham in person, you may have your fingers crossed for warm weather. Sunny conditions are ideal for outdoor events like these, but even sunshine can have consequences for the horses who are racing that day.
Horses, even carefully bred racehorses, can struggle to regulate their own temperatures when it’s very warm and can overheat much quicker than humans do. So, a very hot day could spell trouble for their speed and stamina. In the horse racing community, there is even discussion around how the angle of the sun and its position in the sky can affect races, as it could throw off horses as they go around the track.
Horses with good, well-established trainers and jockeys will have been well prepared for races on hot days, so they will be a good bet for you to make. For example, they will know to feed their horses damp hay and give them access to plenty of water before the race to help keep them cool. So, it could help to keep an eye out for big names in horse training such as Willie Mullins and Nicky Henderson, and for top jockeys such as Paul Townend and Rachael Blackmore.
There are many fantastic horses racing at Cheltenham this year, and tips in this guide could help you pick a winner. A cool, cloudy, and dry day may be best for most horses, but if you want to be clever, look for those who have done well in adverse weather conditions in the past.
Last Updated on 04/03/2022