Blazer among Willie Mullins’ handicap squad for Cheltenham Festival

Entries have been revealed for the 10 handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival with less than three weeks to go before the meeting gets under way.
Blazer among Willie Mullins’ handicap squad for Cheltenham Festival

A total of 965 entries were made with the most over-subscribed race being the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, which Willie Mullins has dominated of late.

Mullins has entered Blazer and Arbre De Vie, among a host of others which include his Grade One winner Petite Parisienne.

The least popular race in terms of numbers is the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, with only 50 possibles.

They include Frodon and Fixe Le Kap, first and second at Haydock in the Victor Ludorum last weekend. Gibralfaro, second-favourite for the Triumph Hurdle, has also been entered.

The Ultima Handicap Chase over three miles on the first day has attracted 107 entries with plenty of Crabbie’s Grand National possibles in the mix, including Kruzhlinin, Morning Assembly and The Last Samuri, while The Giant Bolster has the handicap option along with previous winner Holywell and Golden Chieftain.

Warren Greatrex’s Aloomomo is among 68 in the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase with 155 in the Coral Cup, in which Diamond King, Kilcrea Vale, Politologue and Kings Palace catch the eye.

The Pertemps Final has 55 possibles with If In Doubt and Cup Final looking a couple of likely types for JP McManus.

The Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate has 103 in at this stage including last year’s winner Darna, Stilletto and David Pipe’s Doctor Harper.

Malcolm Jefferson has also entered Oscar Rock, but he will only run if the ground is genuinely good.

“I shouldn’t have run him in the Paddy Power, it was simply too soft for him,” said Jefferson.

“What I should have done was rough him off when the rain started as he thrives at this time of year.

“He doesn’t like the cold, but even this week with a few days of sun, his coat is shining.

“We’ve put him in but he will not run unless the ground is good, he showed what he can do when he gets his ground at Market Rasen when he won off 147.”

Amateurs get their chance in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase with Gordon Elliott’s Mala Beach in the mix along with Upswing.

There would be no more popular winner than Charles O’Brien’s Henry Higgins in the Vincent O’Brien County Hurdle, for which 96 were entered, including the recent Betfair Hurdle runner up Starchitect.

Meanwhile last year’s winner Rocky Creek is among a field of 16 declared for the BetBright Chase at Kempton on tomorrow.

The Paul Nicholls-trained 10-year-old will carry the same weight, 11st 11lb, as he shouldered last season.

Nicholls has two other chances with Virak, who has top-weight of 11st 12lb, and Ruben Cotter.

Le Reve, runner-up 12 months ago, will attempt to go one better for trainer Lucy Wadham while 2013 victor Opening Batsman, trained by Harry Fry, takes his chance. Fry is also represented by promising novice Thomas Brown.

The leading fancies have stood their ground including the Philip Hobbs-trained Champagne West, Alan King’s Ziga Boy, successful in Doncaster’s Sky Bet Chase last month, and Colin Tizzard’s Theatre Guide.

Completing a competitive line-up are Tenor Nivernais, Fox Appeal, Hadrian’s Approach, Roc d’Apsis, Ballykan, Astracad and Viva Steve.

The two withdrawals at the 48-hour final declaration stage were The Druids Nephew and Shangani.

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