What are the best bets in the Cross-Country Chase?
16:10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase, 3m6f (Cross-Country Course)
Last year’s 1-2-3: Rivage D’or, Any Currency (7/1), Uncle Junior (20/1) – 16 ran.
Enda Bolger landed four of the first five runnings of this race after its inception in 2005 and he has a favourite’s chance of ending his six-year drought with Josies Orders, who has won both his starts over this unique track this season. The eight-year-old beat last year’s second Any Currency at the November meeting and followed up the following month when getting the better of Sire Collonges by two lengths, despite being carried left by that horse at the last. He was well beaten on his next start over hurdles at Navan but that result is almost irrelevant in the context of this race and, still unexposed in these type of races, he’s a worthy market leader. Top price: 5/2 general.
Who else is fancied?
The aforementioned Any Currency and Sire Collonges should again run their races but the biggest challenge to the favourite may come from Ted Walsh’s Foxrock. He has no form of any kind on a banks course such as this but is a classy 157-rated chaser under Rules and if he runs close to that mark (the big question?) he’ll be difficult to beat.
Balthazar King, a dual winner of this contest (2012 & 2014), has not been seen out since crashing out in last season’s Grand National, when sustaining a life-threatening injury. However, the now 12-year-old goes well fresh and he’ll be hard to keep out of the frame if the ground is no worse than ‘good to soft’.
And the rest?
Quantativeeasing is a course regular and did best in this race when finishing runner-up (albeit a distant one) in 2014, though he would surely have gone close to winning 12 months ago had he not been carried out when poised to challenge and going strongly after two out. He gives Enda Bolger a solid second-string. Ballyboker Bridge finished third behind Josies Orders in November and has since won over the banks at Punchestown, so he should again be on the premises with the drying ground in his favour.
Trainer quote: “Foxrock is rated 157 fences and could be different gravy. He’s coming from Ted’s place so he will be well schooled – nothing will be left to chance.” – Enda Bolger clearly fears classy Foxrock.
What’s the verdict?
This a real Marmite race for punters and I’m no fan of it as a betting medium. However, the opportunity to say you’ve backed a festival winner (any winner will do!) is a strong lure and FOXROCK will be carrying my hopes this year. Third behind Don Poli in the Lexus earlier this season and fourth in the Irish Gold Cup last time, he’s undoubtedly the class act and, while it depends on how he takes to the course, he has apparently been schooling well over banks and similar obstacles at home.
SELECTION: Foxrock @ 7/1 Paddy Power NRNB & money back if 2nd