Today's Cheltenham racing abandoned

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This afternoon's meeting at the Cheltenham Festival has been abandoned because of high winds.

Officials made the startling announcement after another morning of intense gusts at Prestbury Park.

All six races due to take place this afternoon will instead be staged on Thursday and Friday.

Today's feature race was the Seasons Holidays Queen Mother Chase.

An official statement issued by the Cheltenham read: "We have a weather forecast for today that predicts extremely strong winds over the next six or seven hours with a high degree of certainty.

"On that basis we have made the decision to abandon racing for today.

"The forecast for Thursday and Friday is much calmer and the races abandoned today will be rescheduled to be run on Thursday and Friday on extended cards, with a first race time of 12.30pm.

"The revised order of running and further details regarding Thursday and Friday will be issued in due course."

The Cheltenham managing director, Edward Gillespie, said: "We had a forecast last night indicating that wind speeds would gust over 50mph, up to and including 3pm this afternoon. We had a look this morning and that has sadly been reinforced.

"That means many of the temporary facilities would not be safe at that level.

"The reason we are not racing today is for the safety of the customer."

The course was also hit in the build-up to the meeting by storms of up to 48mph. A hospitality tent at the racecourse was on Monday flattened by the high winds and the starter's rostrum was blown over, damaging fencing.

The situation grew untenable during this morning, however, and the tented village at the track had to be evacuated.

Mr Gillespie added: "The rest of the crowd are close to the ( worst-hit) areas so it's not a case of just one area been out.

"Equally, it's a west wind, which would also take debris onto the track.

"We've had one structure blown down this morning, just before 7 o'clock.

"We cannot guarantee the safety of the customers but the good news is we can now stage all the races now over the next two days.

"Tomorrow we will use the Old Course and on Friday (the races) will be all run on the New Course.

"We will be meeting at 4pm to assess the situation again.

"The forecast for the next two days is excellent and that has helped us make the decision (to stage Wednesday's races on Thursday and Friday)."