Cheltenham Weights Lunch

Cheltenham Weights Lunch

There is no such thing as a free lunch..Never miss one anyway, here’s our coverage of today’s big Cheltenham Weights Lunch where the weights for all the handicap races are announced.

As a proper country boy I have to admit I am more at home in my wellies talking to the horses at the stables than I am in a suit at a fancy lunch, but that is the prices us journalists have to pay to do our jobs properly, so off we went to Cheltenham once again for the handicaps lunch, when various owners and trainers were told their fate and had their chances of racing immortality either enhanced or dashed.

Studious as they are, the handicappers rarely make a mistake of any kind let alone a big one, and we rarely if ever walk away with any sparkling news worthy of too many newspaper inches. The great and the good do turn up with Nick Luck, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Jonjo O’Neill the first three I feel the need to mention, but then the lunch is well above average and they will have been encouraged to support the highest meeting of the National Hunt calendar.

Watching the body language and listening to others conversations may not be the done thing in polite society, but I have always found it the only way forward at these things, and I did at least glean a little info if nothing that will change the racing World.

After a lot of thought, and at the risk of upsetting everyone, I have concluded that common sense means we will only have three more horses to add to our slowly blossoming Cheltenham list – we could have more but I like to stick to the ones I like the most and leave the old “scatter gun” approach to others who feel the need to claim winners that outweigh their talents. No one is saying they will win, or are even good value, but whispers and words told me that thy were at least thought to be in with decent chances by their respective yards – ones for your “to follow” lists maybe, or just to keep an eye on?


Entered in the:
1. Ultima Business Solutions Handicap Chase (aka the Festival Handicap Chase) – 12/1 

2. Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate (aka the Festival Plate Chase) – 14/1 

It isn’t like the Brit awards, there are no gasps and shrieks as the weights are announced and precious few surprises, so all we can look for are nods or smirks, frowns or shaking heads, and all the votes seemed positive for this eight year old who is trained in Wales by Evan Williams. Well supported this afternoon (Wednesday) after the weights were announced, they obviously feel he has not been unduly punished for his consistency and who am I to argue with connections opinions?


Entered in the:
National Hunt Chase – 12/1 or 16/1 with Betfred

Trained by the likeable Nigel Twiston-Davies, I will be asking him for his thoughts about this six year old novice chaser at the earliest opportunity tomorrow morning (he was surrounded today). Although only a youngster he has a very mature attitude about him and stays longer than man flu with wins at Chepstow (three miles) and Warwick (three and a quarter miles) already this season. Four miles here should be ideal as he gallops steadily but isn’t exactly known for quickening up, and I got the feeling they expected him to be put up a little for a neck win last time out – he wasn’t and heads to the Festival off the same rating of 136.

Blood Cotil

Entered in the:
1. Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate (aka the Festival Plate Chase) – 16/1 

2. Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase – 11/1 

I do appreciate that the Willie Mullins beast is also entered for both the Arkle and the RSA Chase and may head there, but there were plenty of nods of approval from the Irish contingent when his rating was announced and they do seem to feel he could be well in off a mark of 141 and if he shows up at a handicap, I will be sorely tempted to back him regardless? His rating may well reflect the fact that he took a few races to get his act together over fences, but they feel he is sorted now (as witnessed by an easy win at Naas last time out), and could be one big step ahead of the handicapper for all we know?

Last updated 25th February.

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