Cross-Country Chase race analysis and tips

Cross-Country Chase race analysis and tips

Cross Country Chase

The Last Samuri

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Betting Tip: @ The Last Samuri @ 6/1 with unibet

4:10 3m6f (3m6f37y) (X-Country Course) Glenfarclas Chase (A Cross Country Chase) (Class 2) (5yo+)

Last year (horse – trainer – jockey – SP):
1. Cause Of Causes – G Elliott – J Codd – 4/1
2. Bless The Wings – G Elliott – D Russell – 10/1
3. Cantlow – E Bolger – A Heskin – 9/4f
(16 ran)

Nature of the race
This unusual event is in its third year as a conditions race, having previously been a handicap, and it’s very much a race for specialists. The tightness of the track means that runners don’t get the chance to gallop all out until the sprint for home, so a turn of foot is a big asset, and the key requirement for the first 3m is nimbleness and the ability to remain on an even keel, so as to get a good position for that sprint.

Trends analysis
Given its idiosyncratic nature, horses often need a sighter of this track and very few win on their cross-country debut – only three previous winners had won their first cross-country chase, but the other winners all finished in the first three on their second cross-country start. Ireland has dominated, winning 11 of the 13 runnings, and the Irish have had the first four home on four occasions (first nine in 2009!). Most of the 13 winners were well found in the market, with nine returned at 11/2 or shorter.

Festival form
Given how specialist a division this is, it’s no surprise that previous form in this race has proved a good guide: Garde Champetre and Balthazar King were both dual winners and Any Currency (later disqualified) and A New Story (the biggest priced winner at 25/1) had both been placed in the race before winning it, while the 2011 winner Sizing Australia was seventh the previous year. Last year’s winner Cause Of Causes is set to return in an attempt to land a remarkable fourth consecutive success at the Festival.

Trainer watch
Enda Bolger teamed up with JP McManus for four of the first five winners and they clicked again in 2016, albeit the latter was awarded the race only after the first past the post Any Currency was later disqualified for testing positive to a banned substance. While Bolger remains a chief protagonist, his advantage has dwindled as a result of more trainers taking this race seriously and all his 23 runners in the past eight renewals were beaten on the day.

Best of the Irish
Cause Of Causes clearly comes alive here in the spring and he will etch his name into Cheltenham folklore should he join Big Buck’s, Quevega, Arkle, Istabraq, Sir Ken and Willie Wumpkins on four-plus Festival wins – for the record he won the National Hunt Chase in 2016 and Kim Muir in 2015 before easily winning last year’s renewal of this race. A recent spin around Leopardstown would have blown away any cobwebs and he should be ready to go, although his main target is the Grand National, having chased home One For Arthur in the 2017 version.

Best of the home challenge
The Last Samuri finished second in the 2016 National and while he couldn’t match that feat 12 months later (16th), he’ll no doubt be back at Aintree in the spring for another crack. His form this season suggests he’s no back number at the age of ten and still rated 159 (3lb superior to Cause Of Causes) over fences, he brings a touch of class to this race. It remains to be seen whether he takes to this unique contest but, according to his trainer’s excellent blog, he ‘absolutely loved it’ when schooled over the course recently and that persuaded connections to divert him here from the Gold Cup.

Others to consider
Gordon Eliott has an excellent second-string to Cause Of Causes in the shape of Tiger Roll, who (with tongue firmly in cheek) is the umpteenth horse to go for the Triumph/National Hunt Chase/Cross-Country treble, and Bless The Wings, who did it impressively on the course in December. Auvignat was still going well when coming down in the November version and represents Enda Bolger.

Best bookmaker offers
Boylesports are refunding losing stakes on this race (as a free bet up to £20) if your horse finishes 2nd or 3rd to the SP favourite, almost certainly Cause Of Causes in this case.

This race is not everyone’s cup of tea and I’ll probably be queuing at the bar while the race is being run, but it’s hard to resist a small interest at Unibet’s 6/1 on THE LAST SAMURI in the hope he can transfer his form to this new discipline.

Betting Tip: @ The Last Samuri @ 6/1 with unibet

All odds were correct at time of posting.

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