The fifth race of day two at the prestigious Cheltenham Festival is the highly-anticipated Glenfarclas Cross-Country Chase. It is contested over 3 miles and 6 furlongs with a field of 16 runners set to line up. Gordon Elliott-trained horses have dominated this event over recent years with the trainer boasting the winning horse in 4 of the last 6 years including last year’s winner Delta Work.
This is also a race that’s renowned for seeing the famous Grand National winner Tiger Roll secure three wins. Let’s take a look at this year’s contenders.
Back On The Lash
Was prominent for a fair way in this race last year, but ended up not really seeing it out in the heavy ground and pulled up. He ran really well at the November meeting here when 3rd in good handicap over the normal course. He then ran over this course and distance in January and took full advantage of it being a handicap as he won carrying 10-5 and had Delta Work just under 5L back in 3rd, but he was carrying 11-7. It doesn’t really need me to highlight that off levels here he is going to have a much stiffer task to uphold that form.
Coup De Pinceau
He put in a very good performance to land the 4m contest on Hunter Chase night here in April and didn’t run too badly at Cartmel where he finished 3rd before it was discovered he shouldn’t have run in the race because the hunter chase season hadn’t ended yet. He ran OK at Musselburgh back in November but pulled up last time in the Devon National. Should be outclassed in this field though.
Did not enjoy the Grand National course last year, but clearly enjoyed this course as he finished to Back On The Lash here in January. He had to carry 2lbs less in that race so off levels here he shouldn’t really reverse the form with the winner nor uphold the form with Delta Work.
Was the party pooper in this contest last year when getting up in the last 110 yards to beat Tiger Roll by 3/4L. He followed that up with a superb 3rd in the Grand National off a huge weight (he had to carry 13lbs more than Noble Yeats). Clearly, both of those runs are way superior to what most of these could achieve. He’s returned in good form this season as well.
First up he won the Risk Of Thunder Chase at Punchestown over their banks course in November and then he was a good 3rd giving all that weight away here in January. Tiger Roll would often warm up for this in the Boyne Hurdle at Navan and that’s what Delta Work did last month where he ran creditably behind Blazing Khal. He looks in the same form as last year and is the one they all have to beat.
Has done well over this course since coming over from France. He was 3rd to Back On The Lash on November 21 and then won the following month. After that, there was nothing wrong with his 4th in this race although he was 30L behind Delta Work which shows how much ground he has to make up. He was disappointing on his only run so far this season in the January contest over this course and he will need to come on plenty for that. If he does then he might have a small e/w chance given his good record at the track prior to that run.
Was a superb winner of this contest in 2020 and was 2nd to Tiger Roll in 2021, but he has run terribly in every run since then including when only 9th in the January contest over this course. If somehow he did re-find his form then he would be a player, but that would appear to be very unlikely.
Ran in the Ultima at The Festival last year when 14th. Was 3rd to Delta Work in the Risk Of Thunder back in November and was a close 5th in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown over Christmas. His only run over this course and distance was in the January race but he fell at the 15th. He was well beaten at the Dublin Racing Festival last time back in handicap company. On that 3rd at Punchestown he has an e/w chance in this as he looked like this longer trip would help him.
Francky Du Berlais
Ran way above his odds when 5th in the January race over this course, but again he would have benefitted by the fact that was a handicap and there doesn’t seem any reason why he should reverse the form on these terms.
Franco De Port
A Grade 1 winner over 2m1f at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting back in 2020 and that was his last victory. He has run some good races in defeat however and he clearly stays well having finished 3rd in the Grand Steeple-Chase de Paris last May. That race is over 3m6f and whilst not a cross-country race as such they do have to jump different obstacles in that contest which should bode well for his first run over this track. All his runs have been in Grade 1 or 2 races this season and he’s run solidly on the whole. He should appreciate this drop-down in class and if he does take to the track then he can be a leading player.
Finished 4th in last year’s Gold Cup which obviously is a top-class effort in the context of this race. This season he landed a Grade 3 at Punchestown in October, but he hasn’t been so good on his next two starts only beating 1 home at Down Royal and then well beaten at Leopardstown in the Savills Chase where he was a long way behind Franco De Port. The trainer has reported that he has schooled well over the fences so likely to go close.
Has been running in points for most of the season winning a couple, but that form is way below what would be needed to win this and was only 6th at Punchestown in a much lesser race than this over their banks course
Won a handicap at Kempton last time off a mark of 122 which is way below what will be needed here and he looks like he might be a doubtful stayer as well.
Given it was his first run for a year he ran really well to finish 4th here in January only 7L behind Back On The Lash. He clearly enjoys this track as he finished 4th here in December 2021 as well. Clearly has something to find, but if he comes on for the run he has a place chance.
Plan Of Attack
He was the horse who followed Delta Work and Tiger Roll home in this race last year although he was 22L behind the winner. He’s not really run that well on his 4 subsequent starts though which would be a concern. There was a glimmer of promise when he stayed on here in January to finish 7th after finding himself outpaced. On balance though he will do very well to repeat last year’s 3rd let alone do any better.
Gin On Lime
Won a Grade 3 Novice Chase at Tipperary in October 2021 over 2m4f and he then won the infamous match race here at the November meeting when My Drogo came down at 2 out. She’s run well enough in defeat since and was a fair 4th in the Kerry National last time, but that was back in September and I’m not sure she wants this trip. Also, it remains to be seen how she takes to the track.
Seems to be coming back into form and ran well for a long way here in January before fading into 6th place. She put in an even better performance at Haydock last time in the Grand National Trial to finish a close 2nd to Quick Wave. The softer the ground the better for her and whilst she needs to find something to win this on these terms she could well offer e/w value.
Given this isn’t a handicap it is hard not to see the 3 classy horses coming to the fore here. Delta Work was so impressive here last year when beating Tiger Roll that I think he can land the race for the 2nd time. For me, he is coming into this race in better form than his stablemate Galvin. Franco De Port looks to be e/w value at the prices especially as he was in front of Galvin last time and his run in France last May suggests this sort of test should suit him.
There are others who can run well headed by Snow Leopardess who seems to have found her form again, but unless something very unusual happens it is hard to see how any of those outside of the front 3 in the betting can possibly win.
Delta Work @ 6/4 with Bet365
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All odds accurate at time of writing.