Bere cheek and other curios: quirky handicap tales from Cheltenham
1 There could be a lot of poker hands played at declaration time for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – and good luck to punters as the race could be turned upside down. Nicky Henderson was ready to join the exodus to the JCB Triumph Hurdle with Divin Bere (10st 12lb) if the five above him in the weights come out, as some expect. This despite handicapper David Dickinson saying: "You could make a case for him being the best juvenile on his defeat of 150-rated Master Blueyes, giving him 4lb, at Huntingdon."
2 Zamdy Man is a headscratcher in the Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase as the top weight is rated 142 yet the Listed race has a rating band of 0-140. The handicappers' explained that the JP McManus-owned eight-year-old had a mark of 140 at the rating qualification date of February 1. Zamdy Man would follow Hunt Ball in winning the race off a mark of 142.
3 What was all the fuss about Tobefair struggling to get into the Pertemps Final? Winning again at Newbury last month meant the Debra Hamer-trained sensation went up another 9lb to a mark of 143 and he is ninth of the 49 entries. As it happens, he would have got a run off his previous mark of 134, which was shy of the historical need to be rated 138 or even higher.
4 Amateur highs. Tom George revealed his son Noel has reserved the ride on Forgotten Gold, who could be one of two or three runners for the stable in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. James King rides Southfield Royale for his stable of Neil Mulholland, with the trainer pointing out his fourth behind Minella Rocco and Native River last year looks mighty good a year on, and he had come on a lot from his disappointing run at Doncaster after coming back "not 100 per cent from Punchestown last year".
5 Give yourself a pat on the back if you have noticed something handicapper Phil Smith pointed out about doubly entered Calett Mad. If the five-year-old runs in the Ultima on day one he gets 2lb weight-for-age allowance, but if he waits for the Kim Muir two days later he would get only 1lb as the weight-for-age changes on March 16.