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Festival Handicap Weights Revealed

Betting interest in The Festival’s ultra-competitive handicaps looks set to step up a gear today following the publication of the weights for the 10 contests at a special event at Cheltenham Racecourse.

The David Pipe-trained An Accordion, antepost favourite for the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase on Tuesday, March 11, has been allotted 10st 8lb, while the 2007 winner Joes Edge has 10st 2lb, 4lb less than he carried to victory last year.

The Enda Bolger-trained Heads Onthe Ground has been given 11st 12lb in the BGC Handicap Chase over Cheltenham’s cross-country course, having carried just 10st 2lb to victory last year, while there are 56 in the handicap for what promises to be a hotly-contested renewal of the Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

The high-class Lough Derg from David Pipe’s yard has 11st 12lb in the Coral Cup, 9lb clear of the field, while his stablemate Comply Or Die will carry a bumper 12st 8lb if he lines up in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase.

The Paul Nicholls-trained Ornais has 11st 10lb in the Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase, 9lb more than any of his rivals, while his stablemate Sporazene and the 2007 Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase winner L’Antartique share top billing in the Racing Post Plate on 11st 12lb, the same weight French raider Millenium Royal would shoulder if lining up in the Pertemps Final.

Antepost favourite Kranji has 10st 6lb in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase while the final race of The 2008 Festival, the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle, could see Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle possible Catch Me carry a top-weight of 11st 12lb.

The top-weights are as follows:
(Race Horse Age/Wt Trainer)

William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase

BGC Handicap Chase (Cross-Country)
HEADS ONTHE GROUND 11-11-12 Enda Bolger IRE

Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
FIVE DREAM 4-11-12 Paul Nicholls

Coral Cup
LOUGH DERG 8-11-12 David Pipe

Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase
ORNAIS 6-11-10 Paul Nicholls

Racing Post Plate
SPORAZENE 9-11-12 Paul Nicholls
L’ANTARTIQUE 8-11-12 Ferdy Murphy

Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase
COMPLY OR DIE 9-12-08 David Pipe

Pertemps Final
MILLENIUM ROYAL 8-11-12 Francois Doumen FR

Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
WANANGO 7-11-12 Tommy Stack IRE
SCHINDLERS HUNT 9-11-12 Dessie Hughes IRE
ANDREAS 8-11-12 Paul Nicholls

Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle
CATCH ME 6-11-12 Edward O’Grady IRE


Competitive Festival Handicaps in Prospect

Entries for The Festival’s 10 handicaps are revealed today and the contests all look to feature large and high-class fields.

There are 84 entered in the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase, run on Tuesday, March 11, including a string of high-class performers such as Celestial Gold, Ollie Magern, Miko De Beauchene, Simon and John Smith’s Grand National market leader Mr Pointment.

Blythe Knight

Blythe Knight

There are 41 entries for the BGC Handicap Chase run over Cheltenham’s unique cross-country course of which 11 are trained in Ireland. These include three trained by cross-country ace Enda Bolger, Garde Champetre, Heads Onthe Ground and Freneys Well.

Many of the best four-year-olds around are among the 85 Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle entries, among them Five Dream, Songe, Ashkazar, Harper Valley and Squadron.

There are 140 entered in the Coral Cup (Handicap Hurdle) on Wednesday, March 12, including leading Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle contender Catch Me while there are 60 entered in the following day’s Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase including the Queen’s Barbers Shop.

There are also 60 entries in the Racing Post Plate on March 13, while the same days’ Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase for amateur riders has 85 engaged including 20 from Ireland. The Pertemps Final has 53 entered including Francois Doumen’s smart hurdler Millenium Royal and Miko De Beauchene, winner of the Red Square Vodka Gold Cup over fences at Haydock on Saturday for Robert and Sally Alner.

The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, which takes place on Friday, March 14, has 45 entries. Trainer Nicky Henderson, whose late father is remembered in the race title, accounts for four of those engaged.

The curtain comes down at The 2008 Festival with the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle in which there is a huge 127-strong entry including high-class performers such as Blythe Knight, Clopf, Catch Me, Amaretto Rose, Deep Purple and Leg Spinner.

The weights for the 10 handicaps are revealed next Wednesday, February 27, at Cheltenham Racecourse.

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