How do you follow the key race of the day? When everyone’s excitement is gearing up to one specific moment, what do you do when that moment has passed in order to maintain interest? The answer, of course, is to offer something totally different. The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the premier event of the day, so it makes sense to opt for a completely different style of race to capture the attention of punters after it’s been run; that’s where the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase comes in.
This is one of a number of new races that were established back in 2005 when it was decided that a fourth day should be added to the Festival’s calendar. Two other cross country chases are also held on the Cheltenham Racecourse during the year, with one in November and the other in December. As a group the three races were sponsored by Sporting Index until 2007 when BGC took over the honour. Glenfarclas, the whiskey distillery, began sponsoring them ahead of the 2008-2009 season and has remained their sponsor since.
While this may be a newish race it already has a huge status by virtue of double Grand National winner, Tiger Roll, winning it a record three times. That includes in 2021 when he was all but written off. The Cheltenham legend also came second at the age of 12 in 2022, his last race before retiring.
Given that this is a cross-country chase it’s no real surprise that it’s pretty long. It’s run over three miles and seven furlongs and has an impressive thirty-two obstacles that need to be jumped.
Technically ungraded, this race was a handicapped event prior to 2016, at which point it switched to a conditions race. Consequently horses are given weight according to factors such as their age, ability, previous success and sex. As the name suggests, this race is run on Cheltenham’s Cross Country Course.
Records For Most Wins
|No of Wins
|Edna Bolger & Gordon Elliott
|Nina Carberry & Keith Donoghue
Race Trends: Winners Since 2005
|Jockey / Trainer
J: K M Donoghue
T: G Elliott
J: J W Kennedy
T: G Elliott
J: K M Donoghue
T: Mrs D Foster
J: Jonathan Plouganou
T: D Cottin
J: K M Donoghue
T: G Elliott
Cause of Causes win in 2017 saw it equal some Cheltenham Festival history. It became only the fourth horse to win three successive but different races at the Festival. The other horses that managed the same feat were Flying Bolt, Bobs Worth and Vautour. He won the J T McNamara National Hunt Chase in 2015, the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Handicap Chase in 2016 and then the 2017 Cross Country Chase to see out the unique hat-trick.
Given the tough nature of the Cross Country Chase, with so many jumps and such a distance to cover, it’s no major surprise that horses that do well in this race also compete in the Grand National. For example, Balthazar King, who won the race in 2012 and again in 2014, entered the famous race at Aintree in its second year of winning this event and finished second. Likewise, Spot Thedifference, who won in 2005, had finished fifth in the National the year before.
Balthazar King is one of four horses to have won the race more than once, the others being Tiger Roll, his stable mate Delta Work and Garde Champetre. The latter horse won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009, ridden by Miss Nina Carberry who is the race’s joint most successful jockey with four wins. All four of her wins came on the back of horses trained by Enda Bolger. Bolger also won the inaugural race in 2005 as a trainer, meaning she’s won it five times and is the race’s most joint most successful trainer. Gordon Elliot is the other most successful trainer, also with five victories.
Gordon Elliott’s horse came in as the winner in three consecutive years from 2017 to 2019, two of which were with Tiger Roll (2018 and 2019). He should have also had Tiger Roll running under him in 2021 when the double Grand National winner claimed a record third win in the race, however, a ban prior to the Festival meant Tiger Roll ran under Denise Foster on his record setting third victory. All three of Tiger Roll’s wins were with Keith Donoghue as jockey.
Tiger Roll retired in 2022 but not before a valiant effort to finish second in the Cross Country. He was beaten by Delta Work who was a stable mate trained also by Gordon Elliott, allowing him to rack up his fourth win as trainer in spite of the fact it spoilt the dream of Tiger winning a fourth and last time. He only just lost too, by less than a length in the end.
Delta Work went on to become the fourth horse to win the race more than once when he won in 2023 with the shortest odds seen yet of just 11/10. This brought up Elliott’s fifth win in the race and the fourth for Keith Donoghue, making his the other joint most successful jockey.
CBO Rating | 5/10
The race after the premier event of the day always runs the risk of being a little ‘after the Lord Mayor’s show’, so it’s intelligent scheduling from the Festival’s organisers to make this race such a different proposition to the Queen Mother Champion Chase. This is all about the stamina, strength and timing of the horse. As mentioned above, it’s worth having a look at who does well in this race and bearing that in mind when it comes round to Grand National time. They may not win the big one at Aintree, but plenty of previous runners have gone on to place there.
The style of this race is so different to all of the others that you may find it a little bit like Marmite. Some of you will love the slog and the challenge that the Cross Country Chase presents, others will find it a touch too long and will be happier going to collect your winnings from the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Whichever bracket you find yourself in, don’t be too quick to dismiss the importance of this race in the grand scheme of the day’s events.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase is a race that is always likely to dominate whatever comes before or after it, so it’s no surprise that race organisers have gone for something a little different with the fourth race on Ladies Day.