Ultima favourite Our Kaempfer more likely to run in RSA Chase
Ultima Handicap Chase favourite Our Kaempfer is likely to swerve the race in favour of a tilt at the Grade 1 RSA Chase, trainer Charlie Longsdon revealed on Thursday after entries for all ten Cheltenham Festival handicaps were unveiled.
"He's in the Ultima but we're leaning towards running him in the RSA," Longsdon said of his unexposed chaser, who was raised to a mark of 148 after a resounding success at Kempton last month.
"He's probably on a fair mark but you need nearly a stone in hand to win a festival handicap. He ran an absolute blinder in the Pertemps last season but was still beaten a couple of lengths off 139. Also, this would obviously be his only chance to run in a festival novice, and it does look like an open renewal of the RSA."
Our Kaempfer, the 12-1 favourite, featured among 102 entries for the Ultima, which was one of six races to attract 100-plus entries. The most oversubscribed of the handicaps is the Martin Pipe conditional jockeys' race on the final day of the meeting. Only 24 are permitted to run but the race has drawn a huge 164 entries.
The total of 960 handicap entries is five down on last year's tally and features 291 contenders trained in Ireland, including Arctic Fire, runner-up to Faugheen in the 2015 Champion Hurdle, who has been given an intriguing entry in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins-trained hurdler, who finished second in the 2014 County Hurdle, has not been entered in the Champion Hurdle and has not raced since finishing runner-up to Faugheen in last year's Irish Champion Hurdle.
The weights will be revealed next Wednesday.
With less than three weeks to go until the start of the festival, Coral have opened betting on the official going for the first race, installing good to soft the hot favourite at 4-11. That has been the description as the tapes went up for the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle for the past three years.
Cheltenham official going for first race of festival
Coral: 4-11 Good to soft, 5-2 Good, 6 Soft, 16 Heavy, 100 Good to firm, 1,000 Firm
Official going for first race
2016 Good to soft
2015 Good to soft
2014 Good to soft
2012 Good, good to soft in places
2011 Good, good to soft in places
2010 Good to soft, good in places
2009 Good to soft
2008 Good to soft
2007 Soft, good to soft in places
2006 Good to soft
2003 Good, good to soft in places
2002 Good to soft, good in places