Festival ins and outs – where the axe looks set to fall in the handicaps
Ultima Handicap Chase
Horses rated 129 and 130 who used to win would have no chance of getting in this much higher-quality contest. Historically 135 got you in, but this year 138 could be required, and with so many horses on that mark not all of them will get in.
Close Brothers Novices' Handicap Chase
The ceiling has been raised 5lb to 145 and so comparisons are difficult. However, in the last two or three years only the top 31 or 32 in the handicap at this stage made it into the race, in which case a mark of 140 or above is likely to be needed.
This handicap hurdle has had a slight drop in entries this year but is full of quality nevertheless. Four of the last five winners have been 148-plus. The cutoff is predicted at 136 or 137 (10st 7lb or 10st 8lb).
Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
Topweight Redicean heads for the JCB Triumph Hurdle, so the weights will go up at least 10lb. There are only 40 entries and last year the top 34 all got in.
Pertemps Network Final
Not a massive entry, but few tend to drop out and last year the horse at number 29 at this stage was the last to make the cut in a field of 24. The cutoff could well be around 136.
Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate
A big entry, but most have alternative targets and it's a difficult one to predict. The cutoff has been between 133 and 137 in the last three years, so fancied Patricks Park on 135 will be on the cusp.
Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup
Again, many have alternative entries. The cutoff is estimated at around the ante-post favourite Squouateur (11st 2lb or 135), who is regarded by the handicappers as only 50-50 to get in.
Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle
Last year a mark of 134 (10st 4lb) was required to make the cut. A similar mark, or possibly a pound higher, is anticipated this time.
Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle
This usually has a narrow weight range. A mark of 135 tends to be required and the handicappers say that if you train, or fancy, one on 11st or 11st 1lb you will be sweating.
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase
Last year's well-fancied fourth Dandridge is likely to be right on the cusp off a 6lb lower mark of 137 this time.
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