Heavy ground at Cheltenham for the first time in 36 years

As punters drink in the unmistakable Cheltenham roar this afternoon, 10mm of overnight rain means that for the first time in 36 years the going at the Festival will be heavy to soft in places.

The last time the going at the Festival opened up with heavy ground, the first race was won by a 66/1 shot in Ikdam.

The highlight of the opening day will see 8/13 favourite Buveur D’Air aiming to defend the Champion Hurdle, trained by the meeting’s most successful trainer Nicky Henderson, the reigning champion faces stiff competition in the much anticipated race from Faugheen.

In a statement on the official twitter of Cheltenham Racecourse, Clerk of the Course Simon Claisse said this morning: “We haven’t had rainfall since about one o’clock this morning and the outlook is for a dry day, with temperatures up to about nine or 10 degrees.

“The going on today’s Chase and Hurdle courses is heavy to soft in places, it’s the first time we have started on heavy ground at the festival since 1982, we had a bit of heavy in Gold Cup in 1989, so it’s been a long time since we had conditions such as this, but a dry outlook for the next couple of days, should be great for this afternoon’s racing.

The first race is the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle, which begins at half one this afternoon; the current 2/1 favourite is Willie Mullins trained Getabird. However, the heavy ground has a history of being favourable to underdogs.

The biggest market mover comes from the first race, in the form of six-year-old Summerville Boy, which  has attracted a plethora of punting attention in the market over the last twenty-four hours.

No less than twenty-four bookies have cut odds on Tom George’s horse winning the famous race. The horse can now be backed at 9/1 with Sporting Bet, but is as short as 7/1 with a number of bookies.

Oddschecker spokesman George Elek said: “Given the concerns surrounding the going, it’s no surprise there’s been considerable movement in the market for Summerville Boy.

“He beat Kalashnikov on heavy ground in his last run, so it makes sense that punters would back him and double the price of Amy Murphy’s Betfair Hurdle winner.”