Cross Country Handicap Chase
It’s not everyone’s cup of tea , but the Cross Country Handicap is a great spectacle….
What happened in 2013?
A race that was rescheduled from Tuesday due to freezing conditions on the cross country track and was won by Irish raider Big Shu at 14/1.
Usually in this lung bursting chase across Cheltenham the pace is sensible as jockeys like to ease their horses into a rhythm around the unique surroundings, but in 2013 the front runners went off like the clappers, which in turn set the race up for the horses that struggled to early on but had reserved energy for a late burst. It looked a messy race from a form perspective and one which shouldn’t be trusted when analysing next year’s event.
It was a fine tactical ride from jockey Barry Cash aboard a very inexperienced horse that was having only his 13th ever racecourse start and just his second on the cross country scene. He made a telling move with five to jump as the horse scythed his way through the field and roared clear with what looked plenty left in the tank.
He finished runner-up to the well backed favourite Arabella Boy in one of the key trials at Punchestown last time out and he took really well to the course. Being just an 8yo, it´s not hard to see him featuring in these races at the course for years to come like many have done over the past few years.
Shakervilz, under Katy Walsh, gave gallant chase in second but his jumping early on wasn’t good enough and he was far too far back to make a winning move on the winner. It was a clean sweep for Ireland for the place money too as Outlaw Pete and former RSA Chase winner Boston Angel stayed on strongly to nab a place.
2014 Major Players
Like many Festival races, it’s very hard to have a confident prediction about who will line up on the day. All the main protagonists in last year’s race will be back once again but some horses will no doubt make an impression on the market, when it forms, from the hunter chase scene.
Please feel free to return here nearer the race for a lowdown on all the big challengers.
Betting advice: strong race trends
Pretty simple this one: ignore UK entries and concentrate on the challengers from Ireland. Prior to the 2012 running, British runners were 0-56 but even though Balthazar King ended the UK duck, normality was resumed 12 months on when Big Shu did the business again for the Emerald Isle.
They have won eight of the nine runnings of this race whilst also producing 38 of the 44 horses to have placed from around a 60% ratio. That trend is one of the strongest you will find anywhere at the Cheltenham Festival.
Enda Bolger is a trainer to keep on side whenever he prepares a horse for a sustained crack at the Cross Country. The Irishman has either trained the winner or runner-up in seven of the nine runnings.
However, stable stars like L’Ami and Garde Champetre are no longer racing and it has opened the door for Willie Mullins to take an interest in the race.
He has so many quality chasers on his books to play with and there is no better man for earmarking a horse’s quality for a certain Cheltenham race. He’ll have one up his sleeve for this contest.