Final entries for The Festival 2018 revealed

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The final pieces of the jigsaw ahead of The Festival are put in place today with the unveiling of the entries for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (3m 6f, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14), Weatherbys Champion Bumper (2m ½f, Ladies Day, Wednesday, March 14), Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle (2m 1f, St Patrick's Thursday, March 15) and St James's Place Foxhunter Chase (3m 2½f, Gold Cup Day, Friday, March 16).  
Previous winners Causes Of Causes (Gordon Elliott) and Josies Orders (Enda Bolger) headline 21 entries for the £65,000 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase. The pair are both owned by J P McManus. Causes Of Causes scored by nine lengths in 2017 from stable companion Bless The Wings, prior to finishing second in the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree. The 2016 victor Josies Orders is one of four entries, all owned by McManus, for Enda Bolger, the most successful trainer in the contest. Bolger has also put in Cantlow and Auvergnat, third and fourth respectively in 2017, plus My Hometown. The British-trained entries include The Last Samuri (Kim Bailey) and Saint Are (Tom George), both runners-up in the Grand National, while there are four French-trained entries including Urgent De Gregaine (Emmanuel Clayeux), a winner over Cheltenham's Cross Country course in January, 2017.
Ireland's champion Jump trainer Willie Mullins has an outstanding record in the £75,000 G1 Weatherbys Champion Bumper, having won Britain's premier National Hunt Flat Race a record eight times. Mullins accounts for seven of the 31 entries in 2018, with his leading hopes looking to be the undefeated G2 scorer Blackbow and 13-length Punchestown winner Hollowgraphic. The pick of the British-trained contingent is Didtheyleaveuoutto (Nick Gifford), who has been deeply-impressive in winning his two starts at Lingfield and Ascot.
The first two runnings of the £90,000 G2 Trull House Stud Mares' Novices' Hurdle have gone to Mullins and he is responsible for six of the 30 entries this year, headed by the current clear ante-post favourite Laurina, who has won both her two starts this season in facile fashion, most recently sauntering to a 13-length success in a G3 contest at Fairyhouse on January 27. Maria's Benefit (Stuart Edmunds) perhaps holds the strongest chance of breaking Mullins' stranglehold on the race, having won her last five starts impressively.
Last year's winner Pacha Du Polder (Paul Nicholls) and dual scorer On The Fringe (Enda Bolger), successful in 2015 and 2016, feature among 32 entries for the £45,000 St James's Place Foxhunter Chase. The current ante-post favourite for the contest is the exciting Irish-trained seven-year-old Burning Ambition (Pierce Power) while Paul Nicholls, seeking a record-equalling fourth victory in the contest, also has Unioniste, Virak and Wonderful Charm engaged. 

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