CROSS COUNTRY HANDICAP STEEPLECHASE: RACE PREVIEW

ENDA Bolger’s domination of this race could be under threat with the introduction of a powerful new player into the Cross Country field: Willie Mullins writes Milesey. Enda Bolger has trained the winner of 14 of the 32 cross country races at Cheltenham but we cannot look past Willie Mullins’ Scotsirish: he beat Garde Champetre by two lengths in the Cross Country Chase at Punchestown last month. Another big field quickly reduced by applying the speed-rating rule, we are left with A New Story (20.0), Sizing Australia (17.0) and Wedger Pardy (46.0) when also ridding ourselves of those with questionable Cheltenham form. Cross Country Chase Tips JP McManus owned horses have won 50% of all the runnings of this race and the cross country is undoubtedly one of the races that the legendary owner targets at the Festival.

This year his best chance is with OUTLAW PETE, who was a convincing winner over course and distance in December.

Trainer John Halley is better known as the vet at the Coolmore and Ballydoyle flat operations but he has had plenty of success training jump horses and Outlaw Pete has certainly blossomed since being transferred to Halley from Enda Bolger.

Seven out of the eight previous winners of this race had either won or been placed in a cross country race at Cheltenham or Punchestown, a stat that will be against the majority of the field and OUTLAW PETE is taken to uphold the fine record of horses with proven cross country form.

Uncle Junior’s strong suits are his stamina and ability to act on good ground: the eleven-year-old stays very well and was a solid third in the competitive Munster National at Limerick and it’s very difficult to see him out of the frame. There is a strong possibility that the pair will be battling out the finish. Of those at a bigger price, Some Target is undoubtedly well weighted and if he takes to the track could be a player.

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1 Comment
  1. 1plus2 4 years ago

    Cross Country Chase

    Spot Thedifference won the first running of the cross country at the 2005 meeting, finished runner up in 2006 and finished fourth in 2007. Upon his retirement he had won on seven occasions over the cross country fences at Cheltenham!

    Cheltenham Scene
    Partial view of the Cross Country course on Cheltenham Festival Day One 2013

    Cross Country Chase Trends
    7/8 were trained in Ireland (and 23 of the last 28 placed horses!)
    7/8 were aged nine or older
    7/8 had won over at least three miles
    6/8 carried no more than 10st 13lbs
    5/8 had won one of its last two starts
    5/8 had previously won a cross country race

    Cross Country Analysis
    The Cross Country Chase is approaching its ninth year at the Festival and the race could be hitting a turning point with an apparent improvement in the quality of horse now taking its chance in the race.

    With the likes of top trainers Willie Mullins and Philip Hobbs now targeting this race we are seeing a different type of chaser take on the demands of this most unusual course and as such some of the previous trends are starting to come under question.

    For the first five years it appeared that coming into the race in good form was an essential criteria as was winning form in a cross country race. However, the last three winners have all gone against the grain in these areas but it must still be preferable to side with a horse with proven cross country form.

    Watch out for the winner of the PP Hogan Cross Country Chase at Punchestown in February as the winner there has gone on to win this race at Cheltenham in three of the last eight years.

    Cross Country Chase Last Eight Winners
    Table below shows the last seven winners of the race, their age/weight at the time of winning, trainer, jockey and odds (starting price).
    Year Horse Age/Wgt Trainer Jockey Price
    2012 Balthazar King 8-10-9 P Hobbs R Johnson 11/2
    2011 Sizing Australia 9-10-9 H De Bromhead A E Lynch 13/2
    2010 A New Story 12-9-7 M Hourigan AP Heskin 25/1
    2009 Garde Champetre 10-11-12 E Bolger Miss N Carberry 7/2
    2008 Garde Champetre 9-10-13 E Bolger Miss N Carberry 4/1
    2007 Heads On The Ground 10-10-2 E Bolger Miss N Carberry 5/2F
    2006 Native Jack 12-10-8 P Rothwell D Russell 7/2F
    2005 Spot Thedifference 12-11-12 E Bolger Mr J T McNamara 4/1

    Cross Country Chase Preview
    Enda Bolger’s early domination of this race could now be under threat as the master of the Cross Country race has not won this race since 2009 after winning four of the first five renewals.

    More of the high profile trainers are now actively targeting this race so it will be interesting to see if Bolger can regain the winning thread.

    Cross Country Chase Tips
    JP McManus owned horses have won 50% of all the runnings of this race and the cross country is undoubtedly one of the races that the legendary owner targets at the Festival.

    This year his best chance is with OUTLAW PETE, who was a convincing winner over course and distance in December.

    Trainer John Halley is better known as the vet at the Coolmore and Ballydoyle flat operations but he has had plenty of success training jump horses and Outlaw Pete has certainly blossomed since being transferred to Halley from Enda Bolger.

    Seven out of the eight previous winners of this race had either won or been placed in a cross country race at Cheltenham or Punchestown, a stat that will be against the majority of the field and OUTLAW PETE is taken to uphold the fine record of horses with proven cross country form.

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