Race against time after Cheltenham is hit

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The Independent Online

Staff at Cheltenham are facing a race against time to repair storm damage ahead of the start of this week's festival.

A hospitality tent at the racecourse was flattened by the high winds and the starter's rostrum was blown over, damaging fencing.

Groundsmen were working against the clock to get the course back on track for tomorrow's opening day - when some 55,000 punters are expected to descend on Prestbury Park.

More than 5,500 staff will work at the Gloucestershire venue throughout the week - where more than £500 million will be wagered on the outcome of 25 races.

More than 65,000 race fans are expected on Friday for the festival highlight - the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

With forecasters predicting high winds, precautions were taken to protect more vulnerable areas of the racetrack. For example the roof was taken down from the Guinness stand.

Managing director of Cheltenham Racecourse Edward Gillespie said: "We've had an uncomfortable night. The racecourse is 100% fine but we have taken damage elsewhere.

"A hospitality structure is down. We're trying our best to re-accommodate those who would use it.

"It's all down to severe wind damage. It was quite substantial.

"We're now taking it hour by hour. Today is our biggest preparation day and our priority is people's safety."

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