Local trainers' close watch on the Cheltenham Festival going as rain takes its toll
Cheltenham Racecourse had ten millimetres of rain during Sunday-Monday night - and the going by 9.00am on Monday morning was 'heavy, soft in places' - from Sunday's 'soft, heavy in places'.
Later news: Monday's racing at Stratford cancelled with parts of the course waterlogged. That's aboiut 30 miles from Cheltenham.
With declarations made for day one of the Festival - Tuesday (March 13) - the rain is taking its toll. After walking the course on Sunday, Barbury Castle trainer Alan King told Racing Post: "In my opinion it's going to be very testing and for that reason we are going to be fairly thin on the ground."
Among King's entries, Dingo Dollar is already out of the Ultima Handicap Chase and The Unit is out of the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase. It looks almost certain that Mia's Storm will be pulled from Wednesday's RSA Insurance Novices' Chase which has 22 confirmed entries against a maximum field of 20.
Alan King supplemented Elgin for Tuesday's Unibet Champion Hurdle at a fee of £20,000. And Elgin has been declared for the race - in a field of thirteen that includes Faugheen, Buveur d'Air, Ch'tibello and My Tent or Yours.
Last week King scratched Sceau Royal from the Racing Post Arkle Chase after the horse suffered a 'niggle' - and might be out for the rest of the season.
Later today, when declarations are made for Wednesday's races, it will be interesting to see what happens to the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle's 87 confirmed entries for a maximum field of 26.
Alan King has six horses entered for the Coral Cup - but several have dual entries. Bastien, for example, looks more likely to go in the Martin Pipe on Friday - ridden by Mitchell Bastyan.
Ogbourne Maizey trainer Emma Lavelle has Flemcara entered for the Coral Cup - with a fall back entry in Friday's Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle. Among other entries from her Bonita Racing Stables, she has seven year-old gelding Full Irish entered for the RSA on Wednesday, with Leighton Aspell booked for the ride.
Thursday's Sun Bets Stayers' Hurdle will see a very local face-off between Alan King trained Yanworth (with Barry Geraghty aboard) and Lil Rockerfeller - trained by Neil King just along the downs from Alan King's yard. Lil Rockerfeller, a great favourite with racegoers, will be ridden by his usual partner, Trevor Whelan. Yanworth will be back to hurdling after a spell racing over jumps.
Looking ahead there is still the chance of some great local interest races during Cheltenham's four days of major races - notably Alan King's Redicean (with Wayne Hutchinson aboard) in the first trace on Friday, and 'old timer' Valdez (also with Hutchinson aboard) in the Festival's final race.