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Cheltenham: The Festival line-ups are starting to take shape

It was a busy weekend in terms of what won't be happening at next week's Cheltenham Festival.

Diamond Harry won't run in the Gold Cup, Riverside Theatre won't run in the Ryanair Chase, Paddy Power's Hollywood-style sign will be missing from Cleeve Hill, and Gordon Elliott will not now ride the charity race.

Diamond Harry and Riverside Theatre are injured, guerrilla marketing is unwelcome and Elliott is, at least by jockeys' standards, overweight. Initial reports that the former amateur rider would shed the required poundage to do 11st 7lb for Thursday week's contest proved premature, and Elliott has waved the white flag.

Jockeys always reckon the last few pounds are the hardest. Elliott said he was glad to have lost the couple of stone, but that time was running out and, with up to eight runners at the Festival, he “didn't want to go there in bad form”.

In fairness, two stone is a bit more than any of the other candidates needed to lose, so it was a noble effort on Elliott's part.

The main thrust of the action over the weekend, of course, was Aintree Grand National related.

In all, 14 Aintree hopefuls stretched their legs on Saturday and Sunday, Big Fella Thanks' effort to be fourth at Newbury causing the only ripple in the ante-post market. From a high of 20/1 on Saturday, that one is now as low as 12/1.

Of the 13 horses that ran on the track on Saturday and Sunday, just two, Skippers Brig and Regal Heights, won, and neither is likely to make the cut for the April 9 showpiece.

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