CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: Henderson urges clerk of the course not to water

Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson

Lambourn trainer Nicky Henderson

First published in Sport

Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls have both expressed their hopes that no watering will be necessary at Cheltenham before the Festival kicks off tomorrow.

The ground was reported to be good to soft on Saturday, with the cross country course soft in places and a predominately dry forecast to look forward to.

Both Lambourn trainer Henderson and Nicholls believe the Cheltenham groundstaff should hold off on watering until at least the end of the first day, when the jockeys have had chance to assess how the track is riding.

Henderson said: “I do sincerely hope they don't water. I think it will be a tragedy if they do.

“Let nature take its course and if nature says it's good ground, let them run on good ground and let the good ground horses have their day.

“It cannot possibly be good to firm by Thursday. I'm going to put a horse in the back of my car tomorrow and I'm going to take him to Cheltenham and ride him in front of (clerk of the course) Simon Claisse and they will make a good print, I promise you.

“It might walk good to a lot of people, but until you gallop a horse on it, you will not know how it will ride.

“I don't think you can even think of watering until the boys have told them after day one. It's the most dangerous thing you can do.

“Why should the good ground horses be penalised just because they want to slow it down? It's wrong!”

Nicholls echoed Henderson's sentiments and thinks it is unlikely the ground will get too quick after a very wet winter.

He said: “I spoke to Simon (Claisse) at length about it last night and his concern is that it might dry out after the first two days.

“He was worried about whether he waters this weekend to make sure it doesn't (dry out) rather than water later in the week, but that's a fair gamble to take because it has been so wet.

“If it is just a little bit on the quicker side, it is bound to be safe ground and I told him that if they do have to water because it does get that quick, then I'd be very, very surprised.”

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