Just twelve days ahead of the Cheltenham Festival, the weights have been revealed for the ten major handicap races making the ante post markets suddenly spring into life.

Vinndication Burdened with Top Weight

In the Ultima Handicap Chase on day one, Vinndication is now clear favourite despite being burdened with top weight of 11st 12lbs.

He may be joined in the event by David Bridgwater’s The Conditional, second in the Ladbrokes Trophy, who has been handed 10st 6lbs while recent scorer Mister Malarky carries 11st 4lbs which looks like a very fair racing weight given his form.

Wednesday’s Coral Cup is set to be among the most fiercely contested handicap races of the whole National Hunt season and with well over 100 entries still standing their ground, we are no further forward to knowing who will line up as favourite on March 11th.

What we do know is that top weight at this stage would be carried by last year’s winner William Henry (11st 12lbs), with L’Ami Serge handed 11-10. Further down the weights one that stands out is Protektorat on 10st 13lbs and there has indeed been plenty of money for Dan Skelton’s January Cheltenham winner.

Plenty of people were not happy with the inflated rating given to Solo after his recent win, and the Paul Nicholls runner has been handed 11st 10lbs should he tackle the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, with favourite Aramax arguably much better treated on just 10-5.

Pertemps and County Hurdle Hugely Competitive

The Pertemps Final is another race that could fall into the ‘impossible side of difficult’ category on day three, Ronald Pump having been given the 11st 12lbs top weight. Last year’s winner Sire Du Berlais has 11-8 while The Storyteller isn’t too badly off, carrying 11st 5lbs.

In the County Hurdle, fancied runners Quel Destin (11st 12lbs) and Ch’tibello, last year’s winner (11st 11lbs) don’t look too attractive at the weights, but one that catches the eye is Ascot winner Not So Sleepy on just 10st 13lbs, remembering that Hughie Morrison’s charge has been well fancied for two major races recently.

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Trainers Talking of Best Festival Hopes

Some prominent trainers are pretty bullish about their hopes, understandably, and they have been speaking publicly about their various chances.

Olly Murphy has admitted that Skandiburg’s programme for the last six months has been mapped out in order to get him to the Pertemps Final in the best shape possible, while Kim Bailey has very high hopes for Vinndication and Imperial Aura.

It’s well known that Jonjo O’Neill’s Annie Mc is in great form, although there is a decision to be made by the owner yet on what race she will ultimately go for, while local trainer Fergal O’Brien deserves a big winner here and his Champagne Well is the one it’s thought will offer him the best chance of a winner in the Coral Cup.

Cheltenham Confident Festival Will Not Be Interrupted by Coronavirus

Meanwhile there has been some loose talk online about the current coronavirus outbreak affecting the festival in some way, however course administrators have moved to quash these rumours.

The threat of the virus was on the agenda during discussions at Monday’s annual meeting between Cheltenham’s management and the BHA, with a steering group having been established to consider the possible implications on the sport should the virus take hold.

The group is confident however as they are in touch with the government on the issue, and with only 13 cases in Britain and with a need to remain prepared, the festival definitely goes ahead and there are no major worries about the fact that up to 280,000 will be in attendance at Prestbury Park and in very close contact.