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Weights Announced for Festival Handicaps

There are just 12 days to go until The Festival gets underway at Cheltenham on Tuesday, March 13, and excitement will build following yesterday’s announcement of the weights for the 11 handicaps staged at the four-day meeting.

Uncle Junior
© Caroline Norris

Uncle Junior

The Festival’s opens with Champion Day on Tuesday, March 13, which includes the JLT Specialty Handicap Chase in which antepost favourite Hold On Julio has been allotted 10st 11lb. Market leader Scotsirish has 11st 9lb in the Glenfarclas Cross-Country Handicap Steeple Chase on the same day, 3lb behind his Willie Mullins-trained stablemate and top-weight Uncle Junior.

This season’s most-improved handicapper Hunt Ball, whose latest success came at Kempton on Saturday, has been given topweight of 12 stone in the Pulteney Land Investments Novices’ Handicap Chase.

Highlights on Wednesday, March 14, Ladies Day, include the ultra-competitive Coral Cup, in which King Of The Night, Restless Harry and Smad Place share top-weight of 11st 12lb.

The Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is headed on 11st 10lb by Baby Mix, who is expected to miss the race and instead head for the Grade One JCB Triumph Hurdle. The well-backed antepost favourite Vendor has been given a weight of 10st 4lb.

The gutsy Restless Harry heads the Pertemps Final on the third day of The Festival, St Patrick’s Thursday, on 11st 12lb, while Hunt Ball has a weight of 10st 8lb in the same day’s Byrne Group Plate.

Amateur riders get a chance to shine in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase in which the J P McManus-owned Arbor Supreme, who has joined Jonjo O’Neill this season, has top-weight of 11st 12lb.

On Friday, March 16, Gold Cup Day, the Paul Nicholls-trained five-year-old Brampour is 6lb clear of his nearest rival with a top-weight of 11st 12lb in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.

A victory at Fontwell on Sunday since his original entry in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle has seen the Colin Tizzard-trained Third Intention given 12st 6lb to carry.

The Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, which brings the curtain down on The Festival, is headed on 11st 12lb by French Opera, trained by Nicky Henderson, whose father is commemorated in the race title.


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