Thursday, February 23, 2012
FESTIVAL HANDICAP ENTRIES ANNOUNCED
Ultra-competitive entries are revealed today for The Festival’s 11 handicaps, events that always prove to be among the week’s hottest betting heats.
The 84 entered in the JLT Specialty Chase on Champion Day, Tuesday, March 13, include several with high-class form over fences including the David Bridgwater-trained The Giant Bolster, winner of the Grade Three Murphy Group Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on January 28, and Massini’s Maguire, successful in a competitive handicap chase at Ascot on Saturday.
Champion Day also includes the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeple Chase in which last year’s winner Sizing Australia is engaged along with 2010 scorer A New Story and the 13-year-old Garde Champetre, second last year and successful in 2008 and 2009 for trainer Enda Bolger. Garde Champetre’s stablemate Heads Onthe Ground, the 2007 winner, could bid to land the contest again aged 15.
There are 73 entered in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase, the concluding heat on The Festival’s opening day.
Wednesday, March 14, Ladies Day, includes the Coral Cup, which has attracted a colossal 148-strong entry, 14 more than in 2011.
There are 81 in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle on the same card, including the Alan King-trained Vendor, ante-post favourite for the four-year-old contest following a victory at Newbury on New Year’s Eve.
St Patrick’s Thursday, March 15, includes three highly sought-after handicap prizes, beginning with the Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle, for which there are 92 entries.
The Byrne Group Plate has attracted high-class chasers such as The Giant Bolster, Tartak, Great Endeavour, Tranquil Sea and Calgary Bay although favouritism is shared between the Victor Dartnall-trained Roudoudou Ville, who has been saved for the race since finishing third at Cheltenham on December 10, and Salut Flo, given a positive mention by David Pipe at his media day on Tuesday.
Amateur riders get a chance to shine in the final handicap on St Patrick’s Thursday, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Chase, and the 104 entries include Faasel, a winner at Doncaster on Wednesday who has finished runner-up in the past two runnings.
Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16, includes the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, which features 109 entries. Trainer David Pipe has yet to win the race named after his father, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, but he accounts for 21 of the 193 entries this year.
The Festival concludes with another race remembering a trainer’s father, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase. Henderson’s son Nicky has seven of the 49 entries.
Weights for The Festival’s 11 handicaps are announced at The Countdown at Cheltenham on Wednesday, February 29.