A field of fifteen runners are scheduled to contest this year’ delayed renewal of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. Won on multiple occasions by the likes of Garde Champetre, Kingswell Theatre and Josies Orders, this really is a race for course and distance specialist. It usually takes between eight and nine minutes to run and form usually goes out of the window here. In the last five renewals no horse has fared better than a fifth placed finish on its previous outing.
Arguably the biggest spectacle on the card comes in this event around the distinctive cross-country course. Rather than standard hurdles or fences, this contest sees the runners faced with a more diverse jumping challenge. A total of 32 obstacles stand between the field and the winning line, including living hedges, cheese wedges, Aintree Grand National-style fences and plenty more besides.
Below are the contenders and I have assessed their chances ahead of Saturdays race. Forecast SPs correct at time of publication.
Winning experience the key?
DELTA WORK is trained by Gordon Elliott and was a multiple Grade 1 winner in his heyday. He is a relatively recent recruit to this sphere and he has looked a class apart in both of the cross country chases he has run in both here and at Punchestown. He has a welter burden to carry here but his class could well see him through. He beat Singing Banjo a short head at Punchestown but will surely improve for that run. Hard to dismiss his claims all the same and a major player.
MINELLA TIMES is trained by Henry De Bromhead is a former winner of the Grand National. He has completed only one race since and even then he was beaten 25 lengths by the gallant Melon. Making his debut in the cross country he is of course worth a second glance. To trust that he will roll back the years to see off some race specialists is something else entirely.
ROI MAGE is trained by Patrick Griffin and he ran in a similar race at Compiegne back in November. He was then upped in class and was far from disgraced when chasing home Minella Indo in a Grade 1 at Tramore. Appears to be a genuine sort on the limited appearances that we have seen him. The step up in trip could see further improvement come from the eleven-year-old and he cannot be ruled out.
FRANCKY DU BERLAIS is trained by Peter Bowen and was good enough to win the Summer Plate at Market Rasen last summer. He has been out in the doldrums ever since so connections have opted to try him at this game. Whether the step up in trip helps over this unique course is an unknown. One positive is that James Bowen rides him and they have won together five times in the past. This seems a big ask for one so inexperienced.
SNOW LEOPARDESS is trained by Charlie Longsdon and won the Becher Handicap Chase at Aintree last season. She won three races on the bounce between November 2021 and February 2022 and became subject of a massive gamble in the Grand National. Since her last win, she has bitterly disappointed on four occasions including twice at her beloved Aintree. This is also her first step into this sort of company and whilst she has ability in abundance, she was beaten 17 lengths the last time she raced at Cheltenham. A massive cloud hangs over her and she is best watched.
FOXY JACKS is trained by Mouse Morris and was far from disgraced when beaten by six lengths in a similar race at Punchestown that was won by Delta Work. He is now seven-pounds better off with that rival so theoretically should finish much closer. His trainer is a shrewd judge and his fifth place in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown really was an excellent run. He has some experience under his belt and rates as a potential threat.
DIESEL D’ALLIER is trained by Richard Bandey and is a former winner of one of these races. He clearly enjoys the unique features of this course and he has gone well fresh here in the past. On the downside, he is on a career high mark and he is beginning to reach the veteran stages of his career. He is fully likely to run another solid race and looks decent each way value once more. He could prove vulnerable to younger rivals in the closing stages.
PLAN OF ATTACK is trained by Henry De Bromhead and has experience over this course and distance. He was placed fourth in this race last year and then improved a place next time out when chasing home Diesel D’Allier. He was pulled up in a hurdles race at Leopardstown last time out which is hardly ideal preparation, but perhaps a return to this track and trip can inspire him. He races here off the same mark as when previously placed so the handicapper has given him a chance. Others more reliable but
BACK ON THE LASH is trained by Martin Keighley and comes here to defend his title from a couple of seasons ago. He beat a few of these rivals that day including Singing Banjo, Diesel D’Allier and Plan Of Attack. He was far from disgraced in a competitive handicap over the regular fences back in November and he will improve for that run. A fascinating contended who bids to win this race for the second time and you wouldn’t rule it out.
MORTAL is trained by Gordon Elliott and makes his seasonal reappearance here this afternoon. His best run last season actually came in this race when he finished fourth to Diesel D’Allier. He went on to race in a highly competitive handicap at Leopardstown on his last run and he was beaten by 57 lengths. He obviously has a chance now returning to this course but his fitness would have to be taken on trust.
SINGING BANJO is trained by Barry Walsh has run creditably in these sorts of races but he always just seems to find one too good. Denied by the narrowest of margins at the Festival last spring, the thirteen-year-old has the pendulum swung in his favour as he is now better off at the weights with Delta Work. He is a thorough stayer and has won races over distances of four-and-a-quarter miles. Despite his age, he clearly thrives on his racing and he looks each-way value here.
DEISE ABA is trained by Philip Hobbs. The yard is woefully out of form at present and this horse seems to be in the decline. There are question marks as to whether he would see out the trip as he pulled up in the Grand National back in April. He also pulled up in his most recent outing at Hereford in a fair handicap. He is another running in this type of race for the first time and he is hard to recommend.
EASYSLAND is trained by Jonjo O’Neill. He looked a potential superstar in this sphere when winning a couple of these races back in 2020. He has pulled up in four of his last six races and been tailed off in the other two. He seemed to have his confidence shattered when beaten by Kingswell Theatre and then again by Tiger Roll. He has completely capitulated and unless Jonjo O’Neill can work a miracle is likely to struggle.
LEGENDS RYDE is trained by Jamie Snowden. He is tough and consistent although he is yet to get his head in front so far this season. Having done all his winning at flatter tracks such as Fontwell and Ffos Las, Cheltenham may prove somewhat of a conundrum for him especially in this type of race. The yard have maintained their good form all year and he is best watched for today.
CREALION is trained by Tom George and his only two wins from fifteen starts in chases have come in France. He clearly enjoys it when there is plenty of rain around as both times have come of soft ground. He is another that is making his debut in this sphere and sneaks in at the foot of the handicap. Whether he is capable of taking advantage off his low weight remains to be seen and he whilst hard to recommend on that basis, there is room for potential improvement for a yard in form.
Forecasted starting prices
3/1 Delta Work, 13/2 Singing Banjo, 8/1 Roi Mag, 8/1 Diesel D’allier, 8/1 Minella Times, 10/1 Plan Of Attack, 10/1 Foxy Jacks, 10/1 Back On The Lash, 12/1 Snow Leopardess, 16/1 Mortal, 20/1 Easysland, 25/1 Francky Du Berlais, 25/1 Deise Aba, 33/1 Legends Ryde, 33/1 Crealion
Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase betting tips
BACK ON THE LASH is an each-way selection in a race where it usually pays to side with those who have winning experience of this track. Whilst Delta Work commands ultimate respect, it will be some performance if he can carry twelve stone around on this track.
The selection has won off higher marks in regular races and is only trained a mile away from the track by Martin Keighley. There are so many making their debut here today over the wedges and hopefully that won’t cause any problems. Singing Banjo is likely to go close and Foxy Jacks is another Irish raider to take note of.
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