Form books at the ready after Cheltenham handicap entries confirmed
A total of 654 entries have been confirmed for the nine Cheltenham Festival handicap races. This is down slightly on last year but is 202 below the number entered in 2020. While the main focus of attention will always be on the feature races like the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle, the handicap races also attract massive betting turnover. We have taken a quick scan through the entries before the weights are announced.
Novice Does He Know heads the betting for Ultima Handicap
The Ultima Handicap Chase on day 1 has attracted 82 entries with the novice Does He Know chalked up as the ante-post favourite. Trainer Kim Bailey is in no hurry to commit his Reynoldstown Chase winner who also has an entry in the National Hunt Chase on the same day. Frodon is certain to top the weights after being given a speculative entry by Paul Nicholls.
Gaelic Warrior is as short as 4-1 favourite for the Boodles Juvenile Hurdle despite not having set foot on the racecourse in Ireland. He joined Willie Mullins from France in January, one of a conservative four entries for the stable. These include Icare Allen, fifth to Triumph Hurdle favourite Vauban at Leopardstown.
There are 110 entries for the Coral Cup, one of the toughest races for punters to work out. Good Risk At All is the ante-post favourite after cruising to victory in testing conditions at Ascot last weekend. Other key entries include Good Time Jonny, Unexpected Party, Winter Fog and I A Connect.
There are only 38 entries for the Grand Annual Chase including last year’s winner Sky Pirate. Mullins has entered only Ciel De Neige who has won his last three races. The useful novice Brave Seasca could represent Venetia Williams and Gary Moore’s Editeur Du Gite is another eye-catching entry.
Ardhill a notable absentee from Pertemps entries
There are 63 entries for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup. Birchdale was a notable absentee, although he is entered in the Plate, and the clear favourite is now Gordon Elliott’s Frontal Assault. He is one of six entries for the stable. Home-trained entries include the consistent Gericault Roque and Mister Coffey, trained by David Pipe and Nicky Henderson respectively.
53 horses remain in the competitive Pertemps Network Final including two-time winner Sire Du Berlais, the subject of significant each-way support in recent days. Emmet Mullins has Rightplacerightime and Winter Fog entered, both narrowly beaten after being well backed last time out. Sporting John still has the option of running here in preference to the Grade 1 Stayers Hurdle. A notable absentee here is Elliott’s Ardhill, although he does still have an entry in the Martin Pipe.
Another race that takes a lot of sorting out is the County Hurdle on Cheltenham Gold Cup day. There are 81 entries here including a remarkable 14 from the Mullins stable. These include Echoes In Rain who has been mixing it with the likes of Honeysuckle this season and the promising novice State Man. The Nigel Twiston-Davies trained I Like To Move It and Nicky Henderson’s First Street were second and third in the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury last time out and are obvious contenders.
There are 67 entries for the Plate Handicap Chase including The Shunter and Celebre D’Allen. The Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle brings the curtain down on the Festival meeting and equals the Coral Cup with 110 entries.