With less than two weeks until the start of the festival, the final pieces of the jigsaw fall into place today, as the entries are revealed for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, the Grade 1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, the Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle and the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase.
Tiger Roll (Gordon Elliott IRE) captured the £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase in 2018, joining a select group of horses to win three different races at the festival, and last year's Randox Health Grand National winner heads 28 entries for the three and three-quarter mile contest.
Elliott, seeking a hat-trick in the race having saddled Cause Of Causes to glory in 2017, has also entered Don Poli, winner of the Grade 1 RSA Insurance Novices' Chase at The Festival in 2015, and last season's Randox Health Grand National third Bless The Wings.
A strong Irish-trained contingent also includes the Enda Bolger-trained duo of Auvergnat, winner of the valuable Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December, and Josies Orders, who has scored four times over Cheltenham's Cross Country course, including when being awarded the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase in 2016. Bolger has saddled the winner of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase a record five times.
Both French-trained entries have run well on their previous visits to Cheltenham. Urgent De Gregaine (Emmanuel Clayeux FR) was runner-up to Tiger Roll at The Festival last year, while Amazing Comedy (David Cottin FR) finished a close fourth in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The International in December.
The home challenge could rely on Tea For Two (Jane Williams), a dual Grade 1 winner over fences, Ultragold (Colin Tizzard), who has won the last two renewals of the Randox Health Topham Handicap Chase over the Grand National fences at Aintree, and Fact Of The Matter (Jamie Snowden), successful in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at The International.
Irish-trained horses have accounted for 19 of the 26 winners of the £75,000 Grade 1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper and another powerful team from across the Irish Sea looks assured, with Irish handlers responsible for 12 of the 28 contenders for this year's race.
Blue Sari (Willie Mullins IRE) stormed to an impressive victory on his only start at Gowran Park on January 24th and the J P McManus-owned son of Saddex could aim to become the fourth four-year-old to triumph following Rhythm Section (1993), Dato Star (1995) and Cue Card (2010). Mullins is bidding for a remarkable tenth success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.
Envoi Allen (Gordon Elliott IRE), owned by Cheveley Park Stud, maintained his unbeaten record under rules when beating Meticulous (Joseph O'Brien IRE) in a Grade 2 bumper at Leopardstown on February 2nd, a race in which stable companion Abacadabras ran out when travelling strongly.
Leading British hopes include Get In The Queue (Harry Fry), a 16-length winner at Exeter on February 22nd, and Master Debonair (Colin Tizzard), who scored at Cheltenham earlier in the season in the Listed High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire And Racing Remember Bumper at The November Meeting.
DAWN RUN MARES' NOVICES'
Willie Mullins has won all three runnings of the £90,000 Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares' Novices' Hurdle and he is responsible for 13 of the 40 entries for the extended two-mile contest, including Grade 1 Future Champions Novice Hurdle second Sancta Simona.
Unbeaten Grade 3 winner Honeysuckle and Punchestown listed scorer Sinoria could both line up for Henry de Bromhead, while Posh Trish (Paul Nicholls), twice successful at Listed level this season, and Epatante (Nicky Henderson), an impressive winner at Exeter on February 22nd, feature among the British-trained contenders.
THE FOXHUNTER CHASE
Pacha Du Polder has won the last two renewals of the £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase and the Paul Nicholls-trained 12-year-old could bid for an unprecedented third victory in the race on Gold Cup Day.
The 35 entries also feature lightly-raced seven-year-old Stand Up And Fight (Enda Bolger IRE), prolific point-to-point winner Hazel Hill (Philip Rowley), Road To Rome (Joseph O'Shea), who has won all four of his hunter chase starts so far this season, and high-class chaser Ucello Conti (Gordon Elliott IRE).For details on entries click here