The BHA handicappers were at today’s press conference at Cheltenham. The handicappers revealed the weights for the Festival handicaps. Here are brief notes of their comments.
Ultima. The best Ultima field ever. Last year horses needed a rating of 131 to get in. This year it could be 136 or 137. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ five-year-old Calett Mad gets 2lb weight for age, but only gets 1lb if running in the Kim Muir two days later, because five-year-olds lose 1lb on 16th March.
Close Brothers. For horses rated 0-140 but top-weight Zandy Man’s rating is 142. However, he was 140 on date of entry. He has won since, so now rates 142.
Fred Winter. It looks like the top-weights will head for the Triumph Hurdle, so weights are likely to rise. If so, French import Magie Du Ma would then be top-weight. The handicappers admitted it was difficult to assess him.
Pertemps. New rules have changed the shape of the race. Horses must finish in first six in a qualifier, so there are now fewer entries. Last year, horses needed to be 139 to get a run, whereas 135 should be enough this time.
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle. Diamond King is all the rage. However, the last three winners were rated 140-142. Sizing Codelco is 140 and only carries 10st 4lb.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir. The last three winners all carried over 11 stone. The handicappers think everything from 135 (11st 2lb) should get in.
County Hurdle. The last five winners have all won off marks in the 130s. Last year, horses needed a rating of 128 just to get in.
Martin Pipe. In recent years, a horse needed to be 135 to get in and this year looks to be the same.
Grand Annual. It’s a strong field including two former Champion Chase winners. Dodging Bullets has been dropped 12lb and allocated 10st 11lb. Sire De Grugy has won off 160 this season.
Trainers’ best bets for Cheltenham will follow tomorrow.