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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