Trainer Gordon Elliott has frequently used the Cross Country as a stepping stone to the Aintree marathon, with the legendary Tiger Roll landing both in 2018 and 2019.
Speaking on the first episode of our From The Horse’s Mouth podcast Cheltenham Countdown series, former jockey Ruby also explained why changing the race conditions from level weights to a limited handicap would make sense.
It’s not as gruelling [as the Cheltenham Gold Cup] even though it’s over further. It’s not run at the same tempo. They go a good bit slower – there’s twists and turns. It’s a race that horses can progress from.
Obviously, Pineau De Re went from a Pertemps to win a Grand National. Rough Quest was probably the last horse to go from a Gold Cup to win the Grand National.
The nature of the Cross Country race just not being as hard physically on a horse probably makes it a better prep or guide to a Grand National.
For the race going forward, a lot of people want to see it turned back into a handicap but I would be more for a limited handicap – 11st 10lbs to 10st 10lbs.
I know that will still leave plenty out of the handicap but you’re looking at horses that are on the way down. Could you see any of the main four – Conflated, Delta Work, Galvin and Minella Indo – being concerns in the Gold Cup? No.
They’ve dropped out of that bracket so you have to try and give these horses longevity and an angle. The Cross Country is ideal for them. You also have to give lesser horses a chance and a limited handicap would be ideal for it.
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