A total of 897 entries have been revealed on 20th February, including a record 322 from Ireland, for the 10 handicaps at The Festival(TM) presented by Magners.
The opening handicap of The Festival, the £110,000 G3 Ultima Handicap Chase (2.50pm) over three miles and a furlong, has attracted 105 entries. They include ante-post favourite Give Me A Copper (Paul Nicholls), who is part-owned by Sir Alex Ferguson and Jeremy Kyle, impressive Listed Sky Bet Chase victor Go Conquer (Nigel Twiston-Davies), owned by Paul and Clare Rooney, and Coo Star Sivola (Nick Williams), who became the first Festival winner to be partnered by a female professional jockey, Lizzie Kelly, when successful in 2018.
Champion Day, Tuesday 12th March, also features the £70,000 Listed Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (4.50pm, 85 entries) over two and a half miles. Highway One O One (Chris Gordon) could bid to go one better after being touched off in the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Festival Trials Day on 26th January.
There are 127 entries for the £100,000 G3 Coral Cup (2.50pm) over two and five furlongs on Ladies Day, Wednesday 13th March. Willie Mullins and owner Luke McMahon combined to win the prestigious handicap hurdle with Bleu Berry in 2018. The pair are also represented by Cesarewitch Handicap runner-up Uradel and G1 winner Whiskey Sour.
Band Of Outlaws (Joseph O’Brien IRE) headlines 63 entries for the £80,000 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Fred Winter) (4.50pm, 2m 87y) the same day, following his impressive victory at Naas on 9th February. Paul Nicholls is the leading trainer in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle with three victories, and the Somerset handler has Taunton scorer Friend Or Foe and Deadline Diva among his three entries.
Gordon Elliott enjoyed a one-two in last year’s £100,000 Listed Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (2.10pm, St Patrick’s Thursday 14th March), with Delta Work edging out Glenloe. The Co Meath trainer accounts for five of the 70 entries, including Sire Du Berlais, fourth in last year’s Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, and progressive novice Moratorium. Owner Philip Reynolds and trainer Pat Kelly, who landed back-to-back editions of the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle with Mall Dini (2016) and Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy (2017), could be represented by G1-placed Tin Soldier.
The Storyteller (Gordon Elliott IRE) tops 82 entries for the £110,000 G3 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (4.10pm, 2m 4f 127y), also on St Patrick’s Thursday, and could bid to become the first back-to-back winner since The Tsarevich in 1985 and 1986. Lightly-raced chasers River Wylde and Janika are among seven entries for Nicky Henderson, who is chasing a record fifth victory in the race.
Randox Health Grand National contenders General Principle (Gordon Elliott IRE), winner of the 2018 Irish Grand National, and Abolitionist (Dr Richard Newland) are among 95 entries for the £70,000 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase (5.30pm, 3m 2f), the final race on the third day.
The 2014 Unibet Champion Hurdle hero Jezki (Jessica Harrington IRE) is one of 91 entries for the £100,000 G3 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (2.10pm) over just shy of two miles and a furlong on Gold Cup Day, Friday 15th March. Mullins and Nicholls are the most successful trainers in Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle history, with four wins each. Mullins has 2018 JCB Triumph Hurdle second Mr Adjudicator among his eight entries, while Nicholls’ seven contenders include promising novices Southfield Stone and Getaway Trump.
There are 58 entries for the £110,000 G3 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase (4.50pm, 2m 62y), in which last year’s victor Le Prezien (Paul Nicholls) could bid to become just the third two-time winner and the first since Dulwich in 1974 and 1976.
The final race of The Festival is the £70,000 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle over an extended two and a half miles. Elliott, who has captured the two most recent renewals, has 26 entries to choose from including ante-post favourite Dallas Des Pictons plus Vision D’Honneur and Eclair De Beaufeu.
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