The handicap entries were revealed this week for ten of the races that make up a third of The Festival cards.

Singlefarmpayment (Tom George) was beaten a short-head in the Ultima Handicap race last year and bids to go one better on the opening day of The Festival. Dave Pipe has entered the promising novice Ramses De Teille.

The Close Brothers Novices' Handicap which rounds off the first day includes Donald McCain’s leading light Testify.

There are 119 entries for the £100,000 Coral Cup over two miles and five furlongs on Ladies Day, the second day, including the 2016 winner Diamond King trained by Gordon Elliott.

Also entered are Betfair Hurdle runner-up Bleu Et Rouge and recent Sandown Park scorer Topofthegame.

Mitchouka and Casa Tall are the stand out entries for the £80,000 Boodles Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle over two miles on Ladies Day.

Previous course winner Thomas Campbell is one of the 52 entries for the £100,000 Pertemps Final Network Handicap Hurdle over three miles on St Patrick's Thursday, March 15th.

Irish trainer Patrick Kelly has won the last two renewals of the Pertemps Final Network Handicap Hurdle with Mall Dini and Presenting Percy. He will be bidding to complete a three-timer this year with the lightly-raced novice Eagle Lion.

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Tully East, a winner at the Festival last March, is among 94 entries for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase on the same day.

The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase has received a total of 77 entries. Pendra (Charlie Longsdon) and Mall Dini, who were second and fifth last year, are entered again.

Mick Jazz, winner of the Ryanair Hurdle for Gordon Elliott, is among 88 in the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle on March 16th.

Willie Mullins, who has won taken four of the last eight renewals, has put in 16, including Bleu Et Rouge, Max Dynamite and Sandsend.

Flawless Escape is one of 19 contenders for Gordon Elliott in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle. Elliott took the spoils last year with Champagne Classic.

Willie Mullins has won the race three times in the last seven years and his 19-strong squad includes Duc Des Genievres and Carter McKay.

The final race of the meeting, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase has attracted 65 entries. They include last year's winner, Rock The World trained by Jessica Harrington.

The weights for all the handicaps will be revealed this Wednesday.


Gordon Elliott Festival Stable News

Gordon Elliott is in no doubt that Samcro will need to improve to extend his unbeaten record in the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle at Cheltenham.

The six-year-old has won each of his three starts over hurdles and he produced a stunning display in the Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown on his latest start.

Even though Samcro is odds-on to score at Cheltenham Elliott is taking nothing for granted.

Speak on Sunday, Elliott said: "He's a nice horse and he has done everything right but still has to keep improving.

"It's a big step up again at Cheltenham. It's the first time he's travelled from Ireland to England to race and that can often be a big ask, too.

"Last year we took Death Duty and thought he'd win, but he never travelled and got very light.

"He's a big laid-back horse, so I don't see it being a problem."

Elliott will be sending over between 30 and 40 to The Festival and his other main hope is Apple’s Jade who will be trying to defend her crown in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle on the opening day.

"Samcro has to improve, whereas Apple's Jade has been there and done it. Hopefully she can do it again," he said.

"She's in great form. Lisa O'Neill rides her out every day and she's like a bull at the moment - she's mad for a run."

Stable star Cause Of Causes will bid for his fourth Festival success in the Glenfarclass Cross-Country chase.

Cause of Causes

The 10-year-old, owned by JP McManus, won the same race last season, adding to his wins in the National Hunt Chase and the Kim Muir, before going on to finish second in the Grand National at Aintree.

Elliott said: "He's in great form and obviously he's a stable favourite.

"If he could go back and win for a fourth time in Cheltenham, that would mean more than any winner, I suppose.

"He loves a bit of sun on his back and the older he's getting he seems to like a bit better ground.

"Cheltenham and the Grand National have been the plan all year."

Mengli Khan needs to turn improve to get the better of Getabird on this occasion when they meet in the curtain-raising Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Elliott is more hopeful than confident.

He said: "On form I can't see how he can beat Getabird. I was stood at the last in Punchestown the last day and he impressed me the way he went by me to the line.

"A few very shrewd judges tell me he is a lot better going right-handed, so that is the only thing that I'm hoping might help me.

"There'll be three or four of them swinging off the last turn in the Supreme and if my lad gets a clear run he'll be one of them. If he's good from there, we'll see."

You can find all our Cheltenham Festival odds here at 888sport via this link...


*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*

About the Author
Steve Mullington

Steven is a sports and horseracing enthusiast and is a member of the Horseracing Writers and Photographers Association (HWPA) in the United Kingdom.

He writes for a number of websites and online publications and you can sometimes hear him at the weekend discussing racing on a number of local radio stations. 

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