Elliott eyes big handicap prizes
The Gordon Elliott-trained Mala Beach would have to carry top weight in the Ultima Handicap Chase if he runs on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.
The 10-year-old is one of 83 possible entries, with 18 Irish-trained. British racing's senior handicapper Phil Smith said this year's renewal is, on paper, the best "by some degree". Smith believes a mark of 138 may be the cut-off point for the race on March 13.
Ante-post favourite William Henry (11st 8lb) is one of the main players for the following day's Coral Cup.
Stablemate Thomas Campbell is currently top weight but trainer Nicky Henderson is leaning more towards running him in the Pertemps Network Final a day later.
The Elliott-trained Ball D'Arc is top weight for the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate, in which long-time ante-post favourite Tully East, from the Alan Fleming yard, is on 11-3.
Smith warned that Elliott's much-fancied Squouateur (11-2) is only 50-50 to make the cut in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase.
Mick Jazz is at the summit of the weights for the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle on the final day of the Festival. Elliott's inmate is one of 39 Irish entries in the Grade Three, including Willie Mullins's ante-post favourite Max Dynamite (10-1).
Flawless Escape, which is also trained by Elliott, has been allotted 11-2 for the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle on the same day.
Ball D'Arc has also been entered for the final race of the Festival, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase, in which he would carry joint-top weight of 11st 12lb alongside Ordinary World. Ante-post favourite Theinval has been given 10st 10lb for the Henderson team.
Ben Pauling has admitted defeat in his attempt to get Willoughby Court to the Festival. The seven-year-old was ante-post favourite for the JLT Novices' Chase but a setback has ruled him out.