Grand National hero Tiger Roll and specialist Josies Orders head Friday's Cross Country Handicap Chase betting, as the pair return to Cheltenham for a scintillating clash.
Tiger Roll, unsighted since his Grand National win in April, is no bigger than 11/4 with Paddy Power to win the Cross Country Handicap Chase, November cross country winner Josies Orders generally favourite, but 3/1 with Ladbrokes.
Their trainers Gordon Elliott and Enda Bolger have a plethora of talented options in the 3m6f test, which looks (almost) sure to go to Ireland once again.
The home challengers have a relatively poor record in Cheltenham's December Cross Country Chase, with only Sire Collonges (2013) and Any Currency (2014) providing Britain with winners in recent years, so it can pay to look elsewhere with preference here for the Grand National winner Tiger Roll (11/4 Paddy Power).
Gordon Elliott’s charge has proven himself a very versatile performer, having registered his first big-race victory in the 2m Triumph Hurdle at the 2014 Cheltenham Festival and gone on to record several successes over in excess of 3m6f - with April’s Grand National victory coming on heavy going.
Heavy going isn’t a necessity for the eight-year-old, he was victorious on good to soft ground in the 4m National Hunt Chase at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. Added to this, he has won both from tracking the pace, and racing in mid-division, showing he is clearly one of the most versatile racehorses we’ve seen tackle this course.
While a fourth-placed finish over this course and distance on good ground last month may have disappointed some, trainer Gordon Elliott made no secret of the fact that Cheltenham in March is his main aim.
“To win at the Cheltenham Festival four times would be a dream come true.” said Gordon Elliott
He was beaten 5.5 lengths by Josies Orders (3/1 Ladbrokes), who is likely to start favourite in betting for this Cross Country Chase, but given that rival was wearing blinkers for the first time in well over four years, there is no guarantee that they will have the same effect.
With Tiger Roll available at 11/4, the best bet is to side with him. He hold strong claims of taking this, with Josies Order’s stablemate My Hometown (10/1 William Hill), who won a banks contest at Punchestown last month, overlooked as hew was beaten 47 lengths in this race last year, his only previous start at Cheltenham.
This Cross Country Handicap Chase marks the culmination of the 2018 Crystal Cup, a series of cross country races across Europe with races in France, Poland, Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic and at Cheltenham.
With that connection comes an international flavour as French raiders Amazing Comedy and Vol Noir De Kerser are set to line up on Friday.
French-trained runners have become a more common sight on this cross country course in recent seasons and, while racing from out of the handicap this time, Amazing Comedy boasts some decent form in his native France.
Trainer David Cottin has done well since taking out a license a couple of years ago and saddled a cross country winner at Pau recently, adding to Amazing Comedy’s emphatic 18-length victory on his last start, in a 3m3f event at Compiegne last mont.
Amazing Comedy showed up well for a long way when contesting a similar handicap to Friday's over course-and-distance on good ground at the Festival. He weakened prior to the final stuffed hurdle, but has looked an improved performer since then, with two seconds prior to last November's win.
The eight-year-old has plenty of experience, with 62 starts to his name, and having recorded two victories at one of France’s most difficult cross country courses, Pau, he should prove capable of running a big race at 8/1 in the Cross Country Handicap Chase betting.
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