With the Cheltenham Festival 2020 drawing ever closer there’s plenty to get excited about. Can Altior retain the Champion Chase crown? Will Willie Mullins dominate the winner’s enclosure again? Can Tiger Roll win his third consecutive Glenfarclas Chase? Undeterred about the prospect of taking on the chasing legend, there are now 26 entries in the race.
Given that’s it’s not a handicapped race, all runners will carry 11-04 over the 3m6f course. It’s a cross country race with 32 fences to be jumped and the maximum field allowed is 16. Last year 15 ran and in 2018 the race had a full complement of 16 runners.
Last year it was Josies Orders that gave Tiger Roll the biggest run for his money. Cross Country specialist, trainer Enda Bolger has already won the race with Josies Orders, back in 2016 with jockey Nina Carberry. That was on the back of two prior cross country wins at Cheltenham at the November and December festivals. Connections skipped the 2017 festival and back again in 2018, Josies Orders finished sixth. Despite the second-place finish in 2019, Josies Orders was still 22L off the winner.
Glenfarclas Chase Contenders
So is there a long-distance chaser who can really challenge Tiger Roll this year? The JP McManus owned Easysland is the biggest threat to emerge from the 26 entries. Trained by David Cottin in France, Easysland goes into this race on the back of six consecutive wins, four of them in this season alone.
French challenger Easysland on course for clash with Tiger Roll at the #CheltenhamFestival – and this time he will be wearing the colours of JP McManus.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 25, 2020
The first two wins this season were both at Compiegne and run over 2m7f and 3m3f respectively. It was at this point that connections opted to try him around the Cheltenham course so he headed there in December for the cross country chase. And he won.
His ownership then changed hands from Christopher Edwards to JP McManus and the following day he ran and won at Pau racecourse. This time it was an even bigger step up in trip to 3m7f. And again the win came easily. With low odds, Easysland is the second favourite for the Glenfarclas Chase on odds of around 7/4.
The French Invasion
However, Easysland is not the only horse that could mount a serious challenge. Urgent De Gregaine and Diesel D’Allier frequently go head-to-head against each other and Tiger Roll. Stablemates, both are trained by Emmanuel Clayeux in France. They finished 1-2 in the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham in November.
But more importantly, Urgent De Gregaine ran in the Glenfarclas Chase and was second behind Tiger Roll in 2018 before returning last season to finish third. Though well beaten in 2019, trainer Clayeux is very optimistic about his chances in 2020.
Emmanuel Clayeux’s three runners for the @glenfarclas Cross Country Chase @CheltenhamRaces on the gallops yesterday AM. Urgent De Gregaine, Arlequin D’Allier & Diesel D’Allier 🇫🇷 #CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/qpCYuQTnDh
— Melissa Jones (@fillyonform) February 26, 2020
Clayeux said: “I think Urgent is in better form this year than last year. He looks better and is in good form, mentally as much as anything.
“Diesel was getting 11 kilograms [26lbs] when he beat him and now they are at level weights. Diesel is not a big strong horse like Urgent to carry the weight.”
Both Urgent De Gregaine and Diesel D’Allier are a general 12/1 with bookmakers.
And The Rest Of The Field
Mite Bite from Nicky Henderson is the third favourite on odds of around 10/1. He won the RSA Chase at the 2017 Festival before finishing second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, behind Native River in 2018. Another run in the Gold Cup last season was less fruitful when he weakened quickly and was pulled up.
That’s also what makes his entry into the Glenfarclas Chase somewhat puzzling. The race is longer with 10 additional obstacles to be jumped. He has never run at this distance nor has he ever run in a cross country.
He hasn’t started the season well, unseating at Aintree in December before getting pulled up again at Cheltenham in January. And last time out he was third in the Denman Chase at Newbury. And that was only over 2m7f. Odds of 10/1 are unrealistic unless the bookies know something the rest of us don’t!