Handicapper tries to slow Quick Jack
Quick Jack vies for the market lead in three handicap hurdles at the Cheltenham Festival, but the Cesarewitch third will have to defy an 11lb hike for crossing the water wherever Tony Martin sends him.
Phil Smith, British racing's senior National Hunt handicapper, varies his approach to the raiders every year, with a number of double-figure hikes 12 months ago in contrast to a less cautious approach a year earlier.
In total, just three of the 11 Festival handicaps came this way in 2014, and in general Smith's treatment of the Irish-based horses this time would appear to give the raiders a fair chance of at least matching that. The majority have seen their Irish rating increased by up to 8lb, and a large percentage of that contingent fall into the middle to lower end of the bracket.
Robert Tyner's Leap Dearg, a rapidly improving son of Beneficial that has won its last three chases, has got an extra 8lb for 11st 9lb in the novices' handicap chase on the Tuesday, while Willie Mullins' Abbyssial is up the same for Wednesday's Coral Cup (11st 7lb) and Friday's County Hurdle (11st 7lb). John 'Shark' Hanlon's Abolitionist has been given 9lb extra in the Coral Cup (9st 9lb), Thursday's Pertemps (10st 4lb) and Friday's Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle (10st 9lb).
The John Breslin-owned Quick Jack won off 95 on his handicap bow at Listowel in September 2013, before following up off 113 at Cheltenham that November. On his only subsequent hurdle start, he finished third to Gilgamboa off 119 in the 2014 Boylesports Hurdle at Leopardstown.
Quick Jack has since won the qualified riders' handicap at Galway en route to his fine Cesarewitch third, and he is in off 136 at Cheltenham.
He trades at between 8/1 and 12/1 for the Coral Cup (10st 1lb), County (10st 1lb) and Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle (11st 1lb), with either of the latter two his likeliest target.
Malcolm Denmark's Guess Again, which is in Martin's care after a switch from David Pipe's, has a range of options over hurdles and fences. Rated 115 when last seen over the smaller obstacles in 2012, he would be 17lbs higher should he get a run in the Coral Cup (9st 11lb), despite the Irish assessor keeping him on 115 for Leopardstown and Navan this weekend.
Edward O'Grady's JP McManus-owned Flaming Dawn would have to race off a stone higher mark than he would here in Tuesday's novices' handicap chase (11st 1lb).
Mullins' Bordini continues to head the Champion Bumper market at 7/1 after appearing among seven potential Closutton representatives among an overall entry of 46, with Rodger Sweeney's dual Foxhunters' hero Salsify one of 15 raiders that could tackle the amateur riders' race this time.
Meanwhile, Annie Power was cut to a general 4/7 to land the mares' hurdle after her leading market rival Aurore D'Estruval was ruled out of the race.