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Enhanced odds offersEnhanced odds offersWednesday, 11 March 2015

Cross Country Chase

Cross Country Chase

The Cross Country Chase (4:00pm) was the first of the new races to be added to the programme to create the new four-day Festival.

It is run over three miles and seven furlongs of the idiosyncratic Cross Country Course. It is open to horses aged five years old and upwards and will have a total prize fund of £45,000 in 2015, with the race to be run on Wednesday, March 11.

Recent Winners

The inaugural Cross Country Chase was won by one of the most popular equine stars of the sport - cross country specialist Spot Thedifference, who was retired at the age of 14 after a glittering career. The JP McManus-owned gelding won seven times at Cheltenham in cross-country races, and also won Punchestown's La Touche Cup twice, the first of them in 2003.

Enda Bolger is invariably the man to follow in races of this type and he has trained the winner of this event four times in seven years, all for JP McManus, with the last three being ridden by Nina Carberry.

2014        Balthazar King
2013 Big Shu
2012 Balthazar King
2011 Sizing Australia
2010 A New Story
2009 Garde Champetre
2008 Garde Champetre
2007 Heads Onthe Ground
2006 Native Jack
2005 Spot Thedifference

Course

The cross country course takes racing at Cheltenham back to its roots with a selection of natural and man made obstacles incorporating banks, ditches, hedges, water and timber rails.

Designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, who was responsible for the 3-Day Event cross country course at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the configuration of the course deliberately weaves around the centre of Prestbury Park, with turns to the left and right leading competitors on a variety of routes and directions.

One of the main differences between the Cross Country Course and the steeplechase courses at Cheltenham is the materials used to build the fences. Chase fences are constructed from 'dead' materials whereas the fences on the Cross Country Course are living, growing trees, shrubs and bushes, which are regularly trimmed for racing.

2012 Cross Country Chase Review

Philip Hobbs' BALTHAZAR KING finally broke the Irish stranglehold on this race when becoming the first British-trained winner in eight runnings.

The winner was ridden prominently throughout and clearly relished this unique challenge. After taking it up from the leader Wedger Pardy, the Richard Johnson-ridden gelding looked set to score an easy success turning in.

However, the 14-year-old A New Story (20/1) came with a storming late run and only just failed, with Wedger Pardy(33/1) hanging on for third. The well-backed Sizing Australia gave his each-way backers some relief in finishing fourth.

2011 Cross Country Chase Review

SIZING AUSTRALIA battled to victory over Garde Champetre in a tight finish to land the 2011 Cross Country Chase.

The 13-2 winner led home an Irish 1-2-3, with legendary cross country chaser Garde Champetre giving his all in pursuit of a third victory and 2010 winner A New Story also in the thick of it again with a gallant third.

Sizing Australia, trained by Henry de Bromhead and ridden by Andrew Lynch, became the seventh consecutuve Irish winner in the seven runnings of this event.

2010 Cross Country Chase Review

After another bump up the handicap the weight eventually told on Garde Champetre though he was still in with a chance over the last three fences as were half the field.

Sizing Australia suffered most in the scrimmaging as the field bunched around the final bend but it was A NEW STORY who bounded clear to land the spoils.

He's been placed in this race before and though he was out of the handicap the 7lb claim from his jockey more than offest that and he was a worthy winner.

Enda Bolger had a say in the finish as L'Ami plugged on well for second while Lacdoudal did well to finish third as he was always in the firing line.

Another Jewel stayed on for fourth without threatening under Davy Condon.

2009 Cross Country Chase Review

Even by his own remarkable standards in this race, this was an incredible training performance from Edna Bolger as he saddled the first three home from his four runners. It was also a 1-2-3 for owner JP McManus, with GARDE CHAMPETRE gaining back to back victory in this unique Festival contest.

It was a fine performance from the ten year old, who was giving the runner up, and market leader, L’Ami four pounds.

The two of them had the race between them turning for home and it was L’Ami who led entering the straight. But Nina Carberry, who has almost as good a record in these contests as her owner and trainer, was travelling fractionally better and he forged clear after taking it up shortly after jumping the last. There is no reason why Garde Champetre can’t make it an historic hat-trick next year.

The runner up lost nothing in defeat, as he was well clear of the third, but he was outstayed by the winner. Both may now head to the National.

Drombeag, who finished third, won the Foxhunters here in 2007 and this was his best effort since then. However, he simply couldn’t go with the front two as they kicked for home off the final bend.

A News Story plugged on gamely to claim fourth, one position worse than he managed in this contest last year, whilst Dix Villez, who controversially won the race over these obstacles at the November meeting, could never land a blow and finished fifth.

Wonderkid (seventh) ran well on ground that didn’t suit. He could be of interest next year on genuinely decent going.

2008 Cross Country Chase Review

Despite the absence of the legendary Spot Thedifference, this unique race fell once more to an Enda Bolger raider, this time in the shape of the previously frustrating GARDE CHAMPETRE.

These unique obstacles appear to have rekindled the enthusiasm of a horse who was originally purchased by JP McManus back in 2004 for the vast sum of 530,000gns.

In winning here, Garde Champetre was providing Ireland with their fourth straight winner in this race and on his previous start he had won the BGC P.P. Hogan Memorial Chase at Punchestown, a race the last two winners of this contest had also won en route to the Festival.

He powered clear under Nina Carberry as the field returned to the racecourse proper and his class told in the end. He is likely to prove hard to beat in this type of race in the future as he had plenty in hand at the finish.

The 2006 winner, Native Jack, who is now fourteen, ran a season’s best to finish second, albeit a long way behind the impressive winner. However, neither he, nor the eventual third, A New Story, were able to keep tabs on the winner.

Stablemate of Garde Champetre, Freneys Well, was fourth having led over the second last. A firmer surface would have suited him better and, unlike many of his rivals, he has time on his side.

There was a long gap back to Royal Auclair, who was the first British trained runner to cross the line, whilst last year’s winner, Heads Onthe Ground, could make no impression when coming under pressure on the final circuit.

2007 Cross Country Chase Review

Incredibly, another victory in this race for Enda Bolger and JP McManus but not, this time, with Spot Thedifference, who relinquished his cross country crown to his younger stablemate HEADS ONTHE GROUND.

The winner was well backed before the off, and he and the runner up Silver Birch pulled well clear of the others on the run in to suggest this was a decent renewal of this unique race - the faster than usual early pace certainly ensured it was a greater test of stamina than is sometimes the case. Heads Onthe Ground idled on the run, otherwise the victory margin would have been greater, and he was given an excellent ride by Nina Carberry, who hugged the inside throughout and always had the leaders in her sights.

Those leaders included Silver Birch, who did well to get so close to the winner, given that he was in the firing line throughout. He was also hampered on the final bend, where he lost more ground than he was eventually beaten by. He may, therefore, have been an unlucky loser although Heads Onthe Ground looked like he’d pull out more if he’d been challenged on the run in.

Silver Birch was formerly a well backed ante post favourite for the 2005 Grand National, but he missed the race through injury and lost his form badly afterwards. He was then sold to race in Ireland and current connections have clearly got him back to his best. He could, therefore, still be well handicapped.

Le Duc was also up with the leaders throughout and had every chance until fading after the last. Ironically, the strong pace he helped to set ended up being his downfall as he just seemed to be outstayed by the first two. He may have done better on slightly quicker ground and is likely to try again next year.

Most race goers in the huge Festival crowd were hoping for a fairytale seventh win over these fences for Spot Thedifference. As is his custom, he was held up well off the pace, but he ruined his chance with a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes and could never quite reach the leaders. He stayed on well to the line, and this was by no means a bad effort as he was giving 24lbs to the winner and was racing off a mark 6lbs higher than his last win here. Despite his age, he is anything but a spent force in this type of race.

Omni Cosmo Touch also ran well on his first start over these obstacles, given the ground would have been plenty soft enough for him. It may just be that this sort of test suits this quirky customer and he could be interesting if brought back here at next year’s Festival.

The rest were well strung out, with last year’s winner Native Jack and Ivoire De Beaulieu both particularly disappointing.

2006 Cross Country Chase Review

As anticipated, horses with previous form over the unique demands of a cross country style course dominated the finish of this race.

NATIVE JACK came into the event in the form of his life, despite his rising years. He seems to have been rejuvenated by the challenge that these obstacles present, having won a similar contest at Punchestown on his previous start. His victory here gave both trainer Phillip Rothwell and jockey Davy Russell their first Festival successes.

The most popular winner would definitely have been the veteran, Spot Thedifference who was looking for his fifth course success. However, he hadn’t come into this race in particularly good form and so second place was another fine effort, especially considering that the slow early pace was probably against him.

Enda Bolger and JP McManus love to have a tilt at these races and as well as Spot Thedifference in second place they had Buailtes And Fadas in third and Good Step in sixth. The former was given a very patient ride and could never quite peg the leaders back, whereas the latter ruined his chance with a bad blunder three out.

Koliquelicot finished between them in fifth and was best of the home contingent. He seemed to enjoy himself out in front and remained in contention until his stamina gave way approaching the last.

Surprisingly, there were only two casualties with both I Hear Thunder and What Odds unseating their riders. Thankfully both horses continued unharmed.

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