Some National Hunt purists have argued that the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (Wednesday 14 March) shouldn’t be part of the Cheltenham Festival, however horses jumping 32 different types of fences over a 3-miles 7-furlong trip is a spectacular sight.
The race used to be a handicap up until the 2016 Festival but, with a view of attracting better horses to compete in it, all horses now carry the same weight.
Two horses have previously won the race twice, and these are Garde Champetre and Balthazar King.
Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase Trends
Three 8-year-old, three 9-year-old, four 10-year-olds and three 12-year-olds have won
11 of the 13 winners have been trained in Ireland
6 winners have been owned by JP McManus
Enda Bolger has trained 5 of the 13 winners
Philip Hobbs is the only English trainer to have trained a winner
Only one outright favourite has won, and one joint favourite
Cause Of Causes
Already a three-time Cheltenham Festival winner having won the 2015 National Hunt Chase, the 2016 Kim Muir Handicap Chase, and the 2017 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. Also ran a terrific race to be second in the Grand National. Yet to be seen so far this season, but rarely hits form until the spring, and as a 10-year-old he could actually be better this time around. Owned by JP Mcmanus.
The 2016 winner is another who is 10 this season, and he’s another interesting contender for JP McManus. On a line through Bless The Wings, second in 2016 and 2017, he comes out about 7-lengths behind Cause The Causes, who was also rated his superior over regulation fences. Ran okay in the trial for this race in December and will probably be in the shake-up.
Last year’s National Hunt Chase winner, now twice a winner at the Cheltenham Festival, could be an interesting second string for Cause of Casuse’s trainer Gordon Elliott. He disappointed behind Josies Order here in December but could easily be a danger on the spring ground he relishes.
Bless The Wings
Gained a deserved success over course and distance in December, and he’ll be bidding to become the fourth 12-year-old to win the race. Would need to turn the form around with both Cause Of Causes and Josies Order on their form at the last two festivals, but definitely has at least an each-way shout.
Not a prolific winner over regulation fences but achieved the highest rating of any of these at a peak of 159, having finished fourth in the 2016 Grand National. Could have that race on his agenda again but, having won a couple of Hunter Chases so far this season, he could have this race on his agenda before-hand, especially as he hails from the yard of Enda Bolger.
JP McManus horses often comes mob-handed to this race, and he looks to have three live chances with Cause Of Causes, Josies Orders and Gilganboa. Gilgamboa is really interesting at the prices but, the race really suited Cause Of Causes’ hold-up style last year, and he’s a decent price to win at his fourth Cheltenham Festival in a row.