Cross-Country Chase Tips – Will Tiger Roll Provide The Meeting’s Feelgood Moment?
2021 Cross-Country Chase Tips
Daniel Overall is continuing to provide the best ante-post previews in the business and his latest epic is on the Cross-Country Chase, the unique event which takes place on Day 2 of the Cheltenham Festival. This year’s contest could feature a rematch between Tiger Roll and Easysland
Cross-Country Chase Overview
Following the conclusion of the Champion Chase, the Cheltenham patrons would traditionally flock to the centre of the track for a closer view of the most unique race of the race. That won’t be the case this year, but the Cross Country remains a fascinating spectacle.
Another Easy Winner?
JP McManus’s love affair with this race continued last year, with January purchase Easysland running out an emphatic seventeen length winner, giving the legendary owner his seventh win in the race (including Josies Orders in 2016, who was retroactively awarded the race).
The manner of his victory had pundits raving about where the progressive, prolific six-year-old might go, with the Grand National and the Gold Cup both mooted as future targets; considering he was allocated a mark of 167 for his win last March, it’s little surprise that racing fans were excited about his long-term prospects.
He came into last year’s race on the back of six consecutive wins, but it’s a different story this term. Well beaten on his return at Cheltenham, he was conceding 22lb to all bar one of his rivals but many of those were out of the weights. His jumping lacked fluency and all of a sudden, one of the bankers of the 2021 festival looked vulnerable.
Not seen since, he missed his intended prep run at Pau with his trainer noting that he was recovering from rhinopneumonia. While his season would’ve unquestionably revolved around this race, his poor previous run combined with his elongated absence is a cause for concern, especially considering his short price.
David Cottin recently confirmed that Easysland will run here with a tilt at the Grand National also on the agenda. He will be joined by stablemate, Ajas, who will also run in the Grand National all being well. Not the biggest, he was beaten by Sophie Leech’s Garo De Juilley when last seen although he did win a Group 3 at Pau on his penultimate start. He’s tough to assess but he’s an interesting contender.
Can Tiger Triumph Again?
Given the 12 months we’ve all endured since last year’s festival, we could all do with a feel-good moment; and none would provide racing fans with more joy than Tiger Roll bounding up his beloved Cheltenham hill to claim his fifth festival win.
Well beaten in this race last term by Easysland when the ground was on the soft side for him and pulled-up when last seen, that previously described scenario does seem increasingly unlikely. While all hope is not yet lost, he does have plenty to prove and there’s a distinct possibility that this race could be his last.
The vibes from the yard have been hopeful rather than confident. They’ve mixed up his routine and they seem to think that he’s coming back to his old self, although we won’t know whether that’s true until he returns to the track.
The French Are Coming?
As well as Easysland and Ajas, David Cottin could also run Amazing Comedy (16/1). A true veteran of the banks, he’s been an admirable horse for connections but he was well beaten in this race in 2019. Held by Easysland on all known form, it’s hard to see him winning this.
Uniketat (12/1) has been prolific recently, winning five on the bounce at Pau. Very much the new kid on the block in France, eh is only a six-year-old but he’s clearly in great heart. He does lack course form and his participation is far from certain although he would be a fascinating contender.
Etat D’espry (25/1) was considered to be a potential dark horse for this following two wins earlier in the season at Compagnie, one of which was a Listed race. Well beaten by Uniketat when last seen, it might be that he doesn’t like Pau and a more galloping track might be needed to see him to best effect.
It’s worth noting that the participation of the trio mentioned above is questionable. Not only might they not be aimed at the race, but questions still surround the transportation of horses from France to the UK (and vice-versa). Hopefully all issues are resolved as the race would greatly benefit from their participation.
Others to Consider
Potters Corner (8/1) made an encouraging debut in this sphere when third at Cheltenham in November. Slightly disappointing over hurdles in the interim, Christian Williams wasn’t too disheartened by that performance and he confirmed that his race was his next target before a tilt at the Grand National. He warrants respect but he does seem short enough in the market considering he was only two lengths ahead of a below-par Easysland in November while in receipt of 21lb.
Champagne Classic (16/1) is an interesting contender; well fancied for last season’s National Hunt Chase, he missed that race through injury but he is a talented chaser. Not seen since finishing second in the Neville Hotels Novice Chase in 2019, he’s not a certain runner but if he were to line up, you’d have to imagine that it will be a prep run with a view to running in the Grand National.
Neverrushacon (25/1) runs well at Punchestown but he’s been disappointing on his two starts over the banks at Cheltenham.
The one that appeals most from an each-way perspective is Some Neck (25/1). A Grade 2 winning novice chaser back in 2018 for Willie Mullins, he’s transitioned well to this discipline, finishing third at Punchestown before winning at Cheltenham in December. Not many win at Cheltenham’s cross-country course on their first attempt so it was an impressive performance and there could well be more to come.
Cross-Country Chase Big-Race Verdict
Not a race that appeals massively from a betting perspective at this stage, both of the headline acts have something to prove and there are doubts about the participation of many others currently in the market.
With that in mind, preference at this stage is for Some Neck who looks certain to line up. Still unexposed in this discipline, his win at Cheltenham was impressive given his inexperience and a bold run here looks on the cards. He’s vulnerable for win purposes if Easysland or Tiger Roll bounce back to form; the former is more likely to given his age and he remains the most likely winner but his price is off putting given his poor preparation.