16:10 Cheltenham - Cross Country Chase
A race that divides opinion at the festival yet the Cross Country is steeped in history and it could be another historical day for Tiger Roll. By all accounts it’ll be the last time we see him step foot on a racecourse and he heads the betting in a hope to claim this contest for the 4th time. Now at the age of 12 he’s not at his peak but it’d take a brave punter to bet against him.
Sure to be in the mix but surely younger and fresher legs may have more in the locker in what looks one of the most competitive in recent times.
The only horse to beat Tiger Roll at Prestbury Park is Easysland who took the spoils in 2020 before the placings were reversed the following year. A current price of 12/1 about a horse who has great form around these fences seems super generous but I just can’t see the logic in switching him to the yard of Jonjo O’Neil. Since he’s changed homes he’s failed to finish a race and that’s enough to put me off.
The interesting runner in the line up has to be Delta Work who is a bit of a surprise entry having competed in Grade 1 company in his last 14 starts. 5th in the 2020 Gold Cup, 3rd in the RSA in 2019 and a winner of the Pertemps four years ago his record at the Cheltenham Festival is decent. As not many expected him to opt for this race it’s hard to know just what to expect. On his best he should dominate a field like this and having competed of the National fences at Aintree before has some experience of different obstacles. Are Gigginstown hoping he’ll be Tiger Roll’s understudy who knows but for now I’ll leave him be and opt for runners at bigger prices.
Before a certain Mr Elliott and a little wonder horse named Tiger came along a different trainer used to farm this race for fun. Enda Bolger has trained the winner of the Cross Country on numerous occasions and he comes here mob handed. With a trio of runners in the lineup it’s hard to discount any of the three but the one that I expect to do best is nine year old Shady Operator. He may have finished second behind stable companion Midnight Maestro but he was only a neck behind that day and was closing in the final stages. Compare that to when they met in November and Shady Operator came out on top by seven lengths. A few of his efforts can be forgiven especially when over an inadequate trip and I feel this extra distance is bound to suit. With a jockey onboard who’s +£9.00 with his rides at Cheltenham over the past five years he may not win but I expect him to finish in the top four.
If you’re on the hunt for a horse at a bigger price I’ve kept my eye on Plan Of Attack for this contest since he finished fourth over course and distance back in November. He went one better when returning here less than a month later so clearly handles this unique course. A fourth in the Kim Muir at the 2020 festival shows he can also handle the occasion and at current odds of 25/1 for a horse who ticks plenty of boxes is far too good to ignore.
Another at a massive price that deserves a mention is Tout Est Permis who may do better than expected and course and distance winners Back On The Lash and Diesel D’Allier have the form in the book to do well.
written by Rory Paddock