Cheltenham Racecourse doesn’t run itself and it’s safe to say clerk of the course Simon Claisse will have a busy week

TRAINERS, stable staff, jockeys, valets, they’re all working round the clock to get ready for the big day.

But few will be busier behind the scenes than clerk of the course Simon Claisse.

Claisse and his team have been working hard to get the course ready in the run-up to the  four-day bonanza.

And the real hard graft is only just beginning.

Claisse said: “I usually arrive around 5am during the Festival, unless there is something of concern in the weather forecast in which case I’d get to the track around 4.30.

“My first job will be to catch up with the head groundsman. Over the last few days we have been putting the finishing touches to the site and the track and the first horses started arriving over the weekend.

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We have been making sure the stables are in tip-top shape, there are 299 boxes on site, and we have all the temporary accommodation for the travelling staff set up.”

With the influx of horses and travelling staff, not to mention the thousands of racegoers, the coronavirus outbreak has been at the forefront of Claisse’s mind.

He explained: “We are following all of the Government advice and we welcome what the Prime Minister said the other week about trying our best to maintain business as usual while trying to help protect the health of the public.

“We are following their recommendations and making sure there are extra hand-wash stations around the course and plenty of information on display. We also advise anyone not to come on site if they have any of the virus symptoms, have travelled from a high-risk country or been in contact with someone who has.”

This has been a distraction for Claisse, who is well used to the pre-Festival media scrutiny, but usually around the state of the ground.

Thankfully, on that score the track has had a reprieve from the recent downpours.

Claisse added: “It’s been a very wet and mild winter which means we’ve had excellent grass growth, the track is looking in great shape. It’s a real picture. We’ve had a relatively dry week and the going is now soft, good to soft in places on both the Old and New courses. I’m delighted with the way it is walking.

“We’re in the final countdown and I’m already feeling the Festival buzz.”

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