Arctic Fire: high-class hurdler could return in the County Hurdle
PICTURE:Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)
By Tony McFadden 12:30PM 23 FEB 2017
ARCTIC FIRE, runner-up to Faugheen in the 2015 Champion Hurdle, was among 100 possibles for the Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle as entries for the ten Cheltenham Festival handicaps were unveiled on Thursday.
The Willie Mullins-trained hurdler, who finished second in the 2014 County Hurdle, has not been entered in the Champion Hurdle and has not raced since finishing runner-up to Faugheen in last year’s Irish Champion Hurdle.
Greatwood Hurdle winner North Hill Harvey is one of six entries in the race for last season’s winning trainer Dan Skelton, while Betfair Hurdle one-two Ballyandy and Movewiththetimes have both been given the option of running, but could instead go for the Coral Cup or take up novice-race engagements.
The first handicap of the meeting is the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase, which was won last year by Un Temps Pour Tout, who is one of seven entries for David Pipe. Gordon Elliott has dominated valuable Irish handicaps this season and is responsible for ten of the 102 entries.
The most oversubscribed of the handicaps is the Martin Pipe conditional jockeys’ race on the final day of the meeting. Only 24 are permitted to run but the race has attracted a huge 164 entries.
Diamond King, an impressive winner of the Coral Cup last year, has been given only one handicap entry, in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate. The 10-1 favourite is one of 100 entries.
There were 960 handicap entries in total, including 291 trained in Ireland. The weights will be revealed next Wednesday.