The Cross Country Chase is run on the cross-country course at Cheltenham over a distance of three miles and seven furlongs, this event is like no other steeplechase of its kind within the UK with a total of 32 obstacles to be jumped throughout the race, and whilst it isn’t a race for everyone due to its quirky nature it usually provides excitement for the viewer, and previous form does tend to come to the fore.
Experience is necessary in tackling these fences so it pays to side with horses with prior experience around the course when making a selection.
Won last year by Balthazar King, regaining the crown he won in 2012, he will not line up this year with focus firmly on the Grand National, a race in which he ran so well in last year, leaving the door open for another equine athlete to add their name to the roll of honour.
The French raider Toutancarmont (8/1) is difficult to assess on his French form alone and from my reading of it has plenty to find with some of the principles and more experienced rivals in this field. He could well improve and take to these fences but over the years a fair few have tried and failed and it wouldn’t be a surprise if this was another to add to the list.
Fellow French raider Pasquini Rouge (20/1) was a solid third over this course and distance as a five-year-old back in December 2013 but disappointed when beaten 40 lengths a year later into fourth, on ground probably softer than ideal. A return to that third behind Sire Collonges would bode well for his chances here and has to be respected.
Imperial Circus (20/1) caught the eye on his first spin over the cross-country fences when fourth behind Sire Collonges, travelling well for a long way. He is a horse that needs quick ground to be seen to best effect, so can be forgiven for his below-par showing on ground softer than ideal in December when disappointing behind Any Currency. He sported a tongue-strap on that occasion which suggests his breathing wasn’t impressing those closest to him and the break since could signify a breathing operation which would put him bang there on ground to suit. He is a further 6lb better off with Sire Collonges for that beating and is dangerous.
Quantitativeeasing (10/1) finished second to Any Currency in that December race, and in all honesty the form has a fallen apart look to it. He couldn’t get the job done when sent off 8/11 for a banks race at Punchestown at the start of February and ran massively below expectations when beaten 93 lengths here 12 months ago.
Hey Big Spender (33/1) looked all at sea on his attempt over this course and distance last year and it would be hard to see him being good enough, despite his good regular handicap chase form. Ipsos Du Berlais (16/1) hasn’t looked good enough on his tries over the banks at Punchestown and he too looks one to avoid for this test.
Duke Of Lucca (8/1) brings in good handicap chase form into this race but has often been let down by his jumping, something which has caught him out twice on spins over this track. Fourth in the race last year despite errors, he fell in the Cross Country Chase at Craon, and then unseated at half-way in the Cross Country over this C&D in December. His form gives him every chance to perform well under these conditions but there’s always that possibility he’ll meet one wrong and that’ll be it, at 8/1 I’m happy to pass up the opportunity.
Uncle Junior (20/1) goes well here in the winter months, but his form of 8P7 at the Festivals suggest at the age of 14 he’s going to find it even more difficult to get into the winners enclosure and is another to be passed up.
Likely favourite Any Currency (5/1) has developed into somewhat of a specialist over this C&D in the past couple of seasons. Ninth on his debut around here, he has since finished 3,2,2,4 before getting a deserved victory in December. Given a break since to freshen up a repeat of his effort 12 months ago gives him excellent claims once again but will need to be in the form of his life from a 17lb higher mark.
Sire Collonges (8/1) has a fair record around here of 6,1,8,3 and looked much improved for the application of blinkers on his most recent outing when giving 3lbs and a beating (2.25L) to Any Currency. The break will have almost certainly freshened him up and decent ground should see him competitive. He is 7lb better off with Any Currency on their last running and there is every reason to think he is capable of confirming that next week.
Whilst I expect Any Currency to be competitive at the head of the market, I can’t see any reason why he should be reversing form with the Paul Nicholls trained SIRE COLLONGES, who held the Martin Keighley trained 12-year-old when the pair last met, and will be 7lbs better off next week when they meet again.
Imperial Circus certainly strikes as one who will outrun his current odds of 20/1, and has to be contemplated in terms of savers but might just lack the class needed to capture a prize of this nature.
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