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OK, OK, the Cross Country Chase may not be the most high-profile race at the Cheltenham Festival – it’s a Class 2 after all – but it’s a real one-of-a-kind contest as the runners slog it out over a distance of about 3m 6f and tackle a mixed bag of 32 obstacles along the way.
Easysland romped to a 17l victory over two-time race winner Tiger Roll in last year’s renewal but the Grand National hero is hoping to turn the tables despite a poor campaign.
Speaking on the latest episode of our special ‘Countdown to Cheltenham’ podcast series, our resident jockey-turned-pundit Ruby Walsh explained why he will not be backing Tiger Roll this year. Paddy Power is offering non-runner money back on all 28 races so there’s no risk of losing out if your pick pulls out before final declarations.
You can listen to the full show BELOW.
It’s a thinking jockeys’ race. Those who know where they’re going and are sure of the course and the ground can be a big help. Jonathan Plouganou was very good to watch on EASYSLAND last year as he took every bend on the inside and manoeuvred himself across the track.
The quality of the horse running in the race has also improved in recent years. TIGER ROLL is a dual Grand National winner with an official rating in the mid-160s.
It’s fair to say stamina will be a huge factor – you simply have to stay. LE BREUIL and POTTERS CORNER will stay but can you see BALKO DES FLOS staying 3m 6f? I can’t. When you get strong stayers like Easysland and Tiger Roll they make sure it’s a test of stamina and you’re guaranteed a really good gallop, especially with KINGSWELL THEATRE in there. He likes to go along. I’ll be going for horses with proven stamina.
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Easysland has only had one run this season at Cheltenham back in November when he was no match for Kingswell Theatre in a handicap. He had 11st 8lb and Kingswell Theatre was carrying 10st. They’ll reoppose on level weights so there’s a huge swing and Easysland is the one to beat.
It was a disappointing effort from Tiger Roll last time at Navan. He petered out. Dryer ground might help him and we all know what an incredible horse he is. He’s earned more than £1.3m in prize money and that doesn’t happen by getting lucky, you have to have a lot of ability to do that. He’s a wonderful little horse but I didn’t see enough at Navan and I’ll most certainly be siding with Easysland.
Potters Corner is the only one that could upset the top two. The warm up at Warwick looked good but his run at Exeter behind Brinkley on Valentine’s Day was so disappointing.
Enda Bolger’s SHADY OPERATOR has 34lbs to improve. If he could be placed it’d be a fantastic run.
CROSS COUNTRY CHASE BET SUMMARY
Ruby Walsh – Easysland
*Paddy will be all over your telly box throughout the Cheltenham Festival sponsoring ITV’s live coverage from Prestbury Park – and you can get free and exclusive tipping columns EVERY DAY from Ruby Walsh, Matt Chapman and Mick Fitzgerald here on PP News.
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