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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse expressed satisfaction with the shape of all three courses ahead of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival.

Although there is rain forecast over the next two weeks, the situation is set fair for the four-day fixture, which begins on March 10.

Claisse said: "I'm pretty happy with things.

"We have a mixture of good to soft ground. The Old Course is predominantly a bit softer, while the New and Cross-Country Course are a bit quicker.

"At the moment, the long-range forecast says it will be relatively unsettled for the next 10 days and that we will receive about an inch of rain.

"We have probably had half the rainfall we did last year, but I'm pleased the way it looks, and although the grass growth is a little bit behind, things are picking up."

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Claisse was speaking at a Cheltenham press conference, in which the weights for all 11 of the handicaps at the Festival were released.

While most of the horses were easy enough to assess, handicapper Graeme Smith said two horses had caused a few headaches.

Smith said: "Quick Jack's (Coral Cup, County Hurdle, Martin Pipe) profile makes him one of the most intriguing horses at the Festival, while Brother Brian (Pertemps, Coral Cup) is well in, if the figures of his form from the Relkeel hurdle can be trusted.

"It was a relatively modest race and they didn't go an end-to-end gallop."

Cheltenham racecourse is currently undergoing a £45million makeover, but course officials were able to issue an upbeat bulletin.

Ian Renton, south west regional director for Jockey Club Racecourses, said: "Huge progress has been made as the season has gone on.

"More spaces will be open, allowing people greater access to move around and avoid some of the bottlenecks.

"It is a fantastic Festival to aim a horse at throughout the season.

"It is the Olympics of jump racing and we want it to remain that way."