Cheltenham Festival Handicap Weights Revealed!

Cheltenham Festival Handicap Weights Revealed!
© Racing Post / Patrick McCann
Charlie Scutts
Charlie Scutts
Wednesday 26th February 2020

Charlie's interest in racing first started when he got a job working at a high-street bookmakers in the year before he went to university. Four years later, having finished his degree in History, a career in horse-racing journalism provided the perfect blend for his interests in both writing and sport.

With less than two weeks to go until the Cheltenham Festival, the weights are out for the ten handicaps. Over 900 contenders have been allocated their potential marks, including a battalion of Irish raiders who have been treated with various degrees of fairness by the British handicapper.

Here’s the lowdown, including top weights, the favourites and some of the Irish contenders who have the most to complain about. Our man Joe Eccles has two Antepost selections for the handicaps. Check those out, as well as our tips and analysis and Free Bets and we build towards the Festival.

2.50 Tuesday Ultima Handicap Chase

Favourite

The market is headed by Kim Bailey’s Vinndication who impressed at Ascot on his return in November. A very useful novice, he could prove a class above his rivals if ready to go for his festival assignment, his first start in over five months.

Top Weight

He would have to saddle top weight at the Festival though. He shares that privilege with Gordon Elliott’s Alpha Des Obeaux, both of whom rated 159. That’s the same mark from which the latter finished third in the Becher in December, although he was a disappointing favourite at Fairyhouse earlier this month.

Ireland

As a result of his hurdling exploits, Dallas Des Pictons is twelve pounds wrong here. Officially rated 135 over in Ireland, he has been gifted a mark of 148. After two heavy defeats and a failure in three starts since success on chasing debut, as well as this treatment by the British handicapper, he’s hard to recommend.

4.50 Tuesday Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase

Favourite

Bailey has another Festival favourite here in the form of Imperial Aura. The seven-year-old won four of his first six starts under rules before placing behind Pym and Simply The Betts in two recent assignments at Cheltenham. Upwardly mobile and unexposed, he’ll top many shortlists.

Top Weight

Paul Nicholls’ Southfield Stone is the current top weight. He was denied narrowly in a Grade Two last week though, so he undoubtedly has the class to make a mark.

Ireland

Second favourite Galvin is only two pounds out. Fellow Irish raiders Tower Bridge and An Fraoch Mor haven’t fared so well though – they’re six pounds wrong.

2.50 Wednesday Coral Cup

Favourite

The Skeltons’ Protektorat is far from prolific, but has progressed rapidly this season. He shed his maiden tag at the seventh attempt with victory in Listed company before placing in a Grade Two. An unexposed novice carrying less than eleven-stone, he’s rightly at the head of the market.

Top Weight

Last year’s winner William Henry will have to defy top weight if he is to regain his crown. He’s rated six pounds higher this year. His latest Grade Two win at Footwell suggests he’s in fine form though, so he’s hard to rule out.

Ireland

Column Of Fire, one of the market leaders, is eleven pounds higher than when second on his recent handicap debut. He’s one of four who are seven pounds wrong, with Gran Geste the most unfairly treated at eight pounds out.

4.50 Wednesday Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle

Favourite

Aramax holds favouritism for Gordon Elliott despite being four pounds wrong. He recorded a stylish win on his third start for his new yard. He’ll need a clear personal best to defy a mark of 138 on his handicap debut, but that’s highly possible given his profile.

Top Weight

After last Saturday’s demolition job, Solo is understandably the top weight. If taking part, he’d have to give at least ten pounds to the field. His participation in the Triumph, for which he’s favourite, is far more likely though.

Ireland

Joseph O’Brien’s Cerberus is rated four pounds higher than in his native Ireland. He has high class Grade One form to his name though, so that shouldn’t put people off. Harvest Bow is hardly in the best of form and is eight pounds wrong – she’s 66/1 for a reason.

2.10 Thursday Pertemps Handicap Hurdle

Favourite

Arriving here seeking a hat-trick, Phoenix Way for Harry Fry tops the market. He landed a qualifier at Huntingdon back in January and is improving rapidly.

Top Weight

A mark of 156, six pounds higher than in his native Ireland, sees Ronald Pump head the weights. That leaves him eleven pounds higher than when second in his qualifier back in December.

Ireland

One who has come in for recent market support is Relegate. She’s five pounds wrong, faring better than The Storyteller and Tout Est Permis whose marks have been inflated by half a stone. Last year’s winner Sire Du Berlais is only three pounds wrong, and has to be considered. Five interesting contenders for the Pertemps can be found here.

4.10 Thursday Brown Advisory Plate

Favourite

The Brooks’ family are enjoying plenty of success of late and their Simply The Betts is well fancied for the Plate. Trained by Henry Whittington, he’s won three of his four chase starts including a cosy success over track and trip in January.

Top Weight

Novice Grade One winner Hardline has found things tougher this season. He’ll have to carry top weight in the Plate, a thankless task. Gordon Elliott’s charge at least hasn’t suffered from mark inflation.

Ireland

Dallas Des Pictons is also entered here. He’s twelve pounds wrong, in contrast to Voix Du Reve who is actually a pound well-in. If only the eight-year-old wasn’t in such poor form. Market leaders Chosen Mate and Galvin are only two pounds wrong, where stablemate Ben Dundee is five pounds out.

5.30 Thursday Kim Muir

Favourite

With Glenloe a non-runner, the market is wide open. Four contenders sit at 10/1 – At The Acorn, Le Breuil, No Comment and Ravenhill. The former, trained in Ireland, has received little help from the British handicapper (four pounds wrong) and isn’t for me.

Top Weight

Six contenders shoulder top weight, all rated at the ceiling of 145. That includes market leader Le Breuil, as well as Irish raiders Cabaret Queen and Tower Bridge, who are three and six pounds out respectively.

Ireland

The veteran Out Sam is rated 128 in Ireland. If taking part in the Kim Muir, he’d have a mark of 137. After a series of underwhelming efforts and unfairly treated at the weights, he’s worth avoiding.

2.10 Friday County Hurdle

Favourite

Recent Betfair Hurdle second Ciel De Niege heads the market. Trained by Willie Mullins, the five-year-old remains a maiden after seven starts but has gone close the last twice and ran well in the Fred Winter last term. The fact that he’s only a pound out only serves to enhance his appeal.

Top Weight

A mark of 156 sees Quel Destin top the weights. He has little room off this mark despite a recent career best performance when landing a Listed contest at Sandown. Last year’s winner Ch’tibello carries nine pounds more this year, shouldering 11-11.

Ireland

Willie Mullins may also saddle the four-timer seeking Janidil. He would have to carry a stone more than when scoring at Fairyhouse in December if taking part.

4.50 Friday Grand Annual

Favourite

Paul Nicholls’ Greaneteen is in flying form and rightly heads the market after taking his record to three-from-three over fences at Fakenham two weeks back. He’s available at 10/1 along with Alan King’s Lisp who wasn’t far behind Mister Fisher in a Grade Two in January.

Top Weight

Four wins in novice company last year and a recent third to Altior see Dynamite Dollars saddled with top weight. He has to carry 11-12 along with Bun Doran, who landed a Grade Two at Kempton over Christmas.

Ireland

Gigginstown’s Eclair De Beaufeu scored at the Dublin Racing Festival earlier this month. The gelding was pushed up eight pounds for that, but the UK handicapper has only added another pound to his burden. He’s worth considering.

5.30 Friday Martin Pipe

The Festival closer could go the way of Ireland if the market is believed. Column Of Fire for Gordon Elliott and Ilikedwayurthinkin for Gavin Cromwell head the betting. Both are saddled with seven pound higher marks than in their homeland.

Top Weight

Eleven contenders are rated 145, the pick of which is Five O’Clock for Willie Mullins. The unexposed five-year-old has won two of his three starts for his new yard, including an easy success in a Grade Three earlier this month.

Ireland

The favourites are two Irish raiders unfairly treated. Joseph O’Brien’s Front View is only four pounds wrong and is near the head of the market. He was comprehensively beaten by Five O’Clock last time out, but is eight pounds better off with that rival.

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© Racing Post / Patrick McCann

Our man Joe Eccles has another in his series of ‘Joe’s Jottings’. He has two selections for the Cheltenham Festival handicaps, with selections in the Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase and the Coral Cup.

Joe’s Jottings – 20/1 & 16/1 Festival Handicap Selections.

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