The final pieces of The Festival jigsaw fall into place today with the unveiling of the entries for the four remaining races at the meeting - the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, the Trull House Stud Mares' Novices Hurdle and the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase.
There are 27 entries for the £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase on Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 15. Irish handler Enda Bolger, who has taken the unique contest five times, has five entries headed by Cantlow who scored over the course at The International in December. Cantlow was second over the course on Festival Trials Day in January, when the shock 50/1 winner was French challenger Urgent De Gregaine (Emmanuel Clayeux FR). There are three other potential French runners. This is the second year that the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase is run as a conditions event, having been a handicap between 2005 and 2015.
Ladies Day comes to a close with the £75,000 G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, for which 36 entries have been received. Willie Mullins has saddled eight winners of this contest and has five to choose from in 2017, headed by current ante-post favourite Carter McKay, who is owned by Sheikh Fahad Al Thani's Pearl Bloodstock and could not have been more impressive when scoring at Leopardstown and Naas. The Weatherbys Champion Bumper is one of the few races at The Festival not to have been won by Nicky Henderson. The Festival's leading trainer has two entries in 2017 headed by the filly Daphne Du Clos, an impressive Listed scorer at Newbury in February.
Willie Mullins landed the first running of the £80,000 G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle in 2016 and accounts for eight of the 31 entries this year. The Mullins-trained octet includes current market leader Airlie Beach, who is unbeaten in seven starts, headed by her victory in the G1 Royal Bond Novice Hurdle at Fairyhouse in December. Mullins' entries also include Let's Dance who is unbeaten in four starts this season, while the leading British-trained hopes include La Bague Au Roi (Warren Greatrex), who is three from three over hurdles. There are two French candidates, It's Jennifer (Louisa Carberry FR) and Titi De Montmarte (Robert Collet FR).
On The Fringe (Enda Bolger IRE) could attempt to become the first triple winner of the £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase on Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 17. The J P McManus-owned 12-year-old is among 39 entries for the St James's Place Foxhunter Chase, where the leading British-trained contender could prove to be Ask The Weatherman (Jack Barber), an outstanding point-to-pointer who made the perfect start to hunter chasing when scoring at Wincanton on February 2.
Looking at the entries for all races at The Festival 2017, there has been a record total of 715 Irish entries, up from a previous best of 647 in 2015, and 601 last year.