2022 Cross Country Ante-Post Preview – Will 14/1 Shady Please Stand Up?
2022 Cross Country Ante-Post Preview
Our expert has delved through the current state of play in the Cross Country betting market, identifying a selection available at odds of 14/1! Check out their thoughts below, and why not also check out our Arkle Novices’ Chase ante-post article.
Cross Country Chase (Wednesday 16th March 2022)
The Cross Country Chase and Tiger Roll, truly a match made in heaven.
Gordon Elliott’s star gained his fifth Festival win, and third Cross Country success when running out an impressive winner back in March where he was unfortunately robbed of the opportunity to bask in the adulation of the Cheltenham crowd.
Fans will be in attendance to see the popular Tiger Roll bid for an unprecedented sixth Festival win next year, but whilst there arguably wouldn’t be a more popular winner in recent Cheltenham times, Tiger Roll is now an 11yo and therefore vulnerable to younger legs.
His old adversary, Easysland is most bookmakers idea of Tiger Roll’s chief threat in March, having brought his Cheltenham form figures to 1142 when chasing home the dual Grand National winner at last season’s Festival.
Still only a 7yo, it is far from beyond the realms of possibility that Easysland can reverse those terms next year, but he’s as short as 4/1 here which makes little appeal from an ante-post perspective – particularly as last season’s runs were a fair way short of his sparkling best.
Fellow French raider Ajas is interesting, albeit far from certain to run having raced almost exclusively in his homeland up to now.
Last year’s Grand National runner-up Balko Des Flos received more experience on this course when fifth earlier this month, where he attempted to concede lumps of weight to his rivals.
He will have a much stronger chance running off level weights in March, but by then it could be four years without a win for Henry De Bromhead’s charge and that makes odds of just 10/1 hard to promote.
Irish-trained horses have now taken 14 of the 17 renewals of the Cross Country since its inception back in 2005, with Cross Country master Enda Bolger saddling five of those.
It is a surprise, therefore, to see his SHADY OPERATOR freely available at odds of 14/1.
Formerly a useful hurdler/chaser for Joseph O’Brien, this 8yo has done the majority of his racing for current connections in handicap chases (took the Killarney National as recently as May) but when racing in this discipline his record reads an unblemished 2-2, both victories coming over the banks at Punchestown.
His most recent victory in the Risk Of Thunder there earlier this month came by an impressive 7l margin, with Shady Operator pulling clear on the run-in in the style of a horse who should appreciate the stamina demands of Cheltenham.
Connections immediately nominated the Cross Country race at Cheltenham in December as a good target for Shady Operator, and an initial experience of the track should set him up nicely for a tilt at the big race in March.
Shady Operator’s sire, Court Cave, has produced multiple Cheltenham Festival winners from a relatively small sample size and being just an 8yo, he retains scope for improvement compared with the likes of Tiger Roll and Balko Des Flos.