Next week is pivotal for finalising Cheltenham prep

The country has almost ground to a halt, and so has racing, but being so close to the Cheltenham Festival it’s crucial that the horses continue to get their exercise.

Next week is pivotal for finalising Cheltenham prep

And that’s where all the focus is.

This weather is obviously not wanted by the country, and most certainly not wanted by lads with horses going to Cheltenham.

We are still getting the work done, but there is some amount of work involved in just getting it done.

They say having any kind of stock is a vocation, and by God that’s true this week. The NECG may have been advising people to be in at 4pm Thursday and not out again until 3pm yesterday, but that doesn’t really work with animals.

In fairness to Willie Mullins’ staff, each day they managed to cover the old gallop and then lift the covers for work to go ahead.

The effort they are making to keep them open is Trojan.

In my own quest to be ready for the Festival, the weather doesn’t help or hinder me.

I would have hoped to have ridden the weekend, but it didn’t take a scientist to figure out there would be no racing and so that would not be happening. Santry is closed, but I’m still tipping away, doing as much as I can.

I can still use the simulator, and still jog, and so am still on course.

If there are a couple positives to be taken from all the snow around, the first is that some of the Cheltenham Preview Nights I was supposed to attend have been called off. Secondly, snow is a great surface for running on, there’s a good cushion in it.

The question now, though, is how quickly the snow is going to thaw.

I’m not much of a meteorologist but to my eyes, it’s going to take rain to shift a lot of the snow we have.

The quicker it disappears the better, so we can get all the gallops re-opened. Next week is pivotal in finalising the preparation for Cheltenham, as we try to get the last strong pieces of work into all the horses.

The key is getting to do that work on time, seven to nine days before they run. Therefore, we need the gallops to be reopened by Tuesday, at the latest.

Cheltenham racecourse is also covered in snow at the moment and the forecast in England is mixed, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the next seven days, and what way the ground will be.

When it thaws it could make the ground dead, but if it clears early next week and has a week of drying, it could yet race on the quick side at the meeting. Cheltenham certainly doesn’t need seven days to dry, and I think people who are worrying about soft ground at the Festival could be wide of the mark.

The weights for the handicap came out during the week but still too soon to know what will and won’t get in. An improver of ours, Patrick’s Park, looks like he would be lucky to get a run as he’s a long way down in most lists.

Likewise, Livelovelaugh and Asthuria in the novice handicap chase.

We should have plenty in the Coral Cup and the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, but we’re going to struggle to get into the two chases. But that’s the competitive nature of those races now – I can’t see there being a huge variation between top and bottom in any of the handicaps.

One I thought might have a workable mark is Bleu Berry, who is creeping in at the bottom of the weights.

He ran okay at Leopardstown, which was his first run since last spring, and he’s bound to have improved for it. He’s worth keeping in mind over the next 10 days.

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