Belfast Telegraph

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Strong cross-country challenge

Entries for the 11 handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival have been unveiled.

Irish trainers have won every running of the £40,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase since the contest was introduced at the 2005 Festival and 15 of the 33 entries in this year's race are trained in Ireland.

Last year's winner A New Story is among the possibles while Garde Champetre is among five entries for cross-country specialist Enda Bolger.

The £75,000 Stewart Family Spinal Research Handicap Chase on the opening day has attracted a quality entry of 85, including the Gordon Elliott-trained trio of Beautiful Sound, Roi Du Mee and Tharawaat. Leading Grand National fancy Ballabriggs is another notable contender.

Tuesday's card also features the Listed £50,000 Centenary Novices' Handicap Chase, which has attracted 73 entries.

Wednesday's Coral Cup has attracted a bumper entry of 134, spearheaded by the progressive Aegean Dawn, who is unbeaten in four starts for Nicky Henderson. The master of Seven Barrows also trains A Media Luz, the current ante-post favourite for the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, for which 52 four-year-olds have been entered.

On Thursday, there are 95 initial entries for the Pertemps Final, while Racing Post Chase favourite Fistral Beach is among 81 entries for the Byrne Group Plate.

The Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup has also been very well supported this year with Pomme Tiepy and Saddlers Storm among the 107-strong entry.

Totesport Trophy hero Recession Proof heads 111 Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle contenders, although the Supreme Novices' Hurdle is his preferred target.

David Pipe is responsible for seven of the 164 entries in the race named after his father, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle. Nicky Henderson also looks set to hold a strong hand as he bids to triumph in the contest named in his father's honour, the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase, with his eight entries including Tanks For That and French Opera.


From Belfast Telegraph