Cross Country Handicap Chase

We welcome the International Meeting at Cheltenham this weekend which gets under way on Friday and one of the highlights of the two-day fixture is the Glenfarclas Crystal Cup Cross Country Handicap Chase which will take place this Friday at 15:00

Who is the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase favourite? 

Heading the betting for this race, it’s no surprise to see Cheltenham Festival Cross Country hero and Grand National third Delta Work (3/1), who has been entered by his County Meath-based handler. 

Gordon Elliott’s high-class chaser, who denied stablemate Tiger Roll a fairytale ending to a fantastic career when edging out the dual Grand National winner in a thrilling finish to the main event in March, made a winning return in the Risk Of Thunder Chase over the banks course at Punchestown. 

The nine-year-old was made to work a lot harder than most would have initially anticipated to see off course-specialist Singing Banjo but he was giving the second seven-pounds, so his performance deserved more recognition than the winning margin suggested and he has clearly taken well to his new venture like a duck to water. 

The fact that he was able to overcome not only inexperience but stamina concerns and a high-quality field on his first attempt at this discipline last March at Prestbury Park indicates we could be looking at a horse who might well dominate these events in years to come. Only time will tell. 

If he takes up this Friday’s possible assignment, he is the one they all have to beat and the current odds of 3/1 could seem overpriced to some if he does take up this option. That said, his participation is far from confirmed as connections were contemplating running here in January instead over these fences or giving him a spin over hurdles in the Boyne Hurdle. 

However, this talented performer, who’s open to even further improvement this term in this sphere, is likely to shorten heavily in the market if he’s confirmed to line-up. Hopefully, Elliott can provide us with some insight within the next few days as to what direction he goes with him. 

Which other high-profile runners remain entered?

Delta Work could be joined by a surprise entrant in the form of stablemate and two-time Cheltenham Festival winner Samcro (9/2) who has also been entered by Elliott. 

It’s possible Gordon has rejuvenated this classy 10-year-old, a winner of three point-to-points by more than 100 lengths combined. If he is confirmed in the final field, he will undoubtedly attract plenty of punters attention given his record at Cheltenham. 

One horse who is almost guaranteed to run is last year’s winner Diesel D’Allier (9/2) who is expected to feature in the final field as he bids to defend his title. An honourable 4th behind Delta Work in the main event in March, he overhauled Potters Corner in the final stride in this 12 months ago and merits some interest even at three pounds higher.

Some of the other notable entries include Back On The Lash (7/2) and Plan Of Attack (5/1) who were 3rd and 5th in this race last year, have good overall records in this discipline at this course and could be in the mix to compete. 

Just a quick mention on a few others. The Mouse Morris-trained Foxy Jacks (8/1), who was last seen finishing a creditable 3rd on his banks debut in the Risk Of Thunder behind Delta Work, could make the trip over to compete in this race, while Tom George has Crealion (8/1) entered too - successful in France the last two times and who could sneak into this race somewhere near the bottom of the weights if Delta Work (who would be top weight) is declared. 

Where is the each-way value? 

Delta Work will shorten in the betting if he’s declared and Samcro would have claims if taking to the course but their participation has yet to be finalised and it might be better to play things safe. Back On The Lash has won here in the past but was only 5th in this last year and wouldn’t appeal to me at his current single-figure odds. 

Singing Banjo (25/1) who pushed Delta Work within a short-head last time when 2nd and has plenty of course form at this course, could easily outrun his odds and make the frame.

The one I really like, however, is Henry de Bromhead’s PLAN OF ATTACK (5/1), who brings solid course form to the table and fared best of those who were held-up in this last year when 3rd. 

He made the frame on both his other two starts over course-and-distance, including when 3rd behind Delta Work in the Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival here, and should be spot on fitness-wise having warmed up for this with a recent pipe-opener over hurdles.