Published 21st February
For so many years, Enda Bolger was the master of the cross-country discipline. Indeed, he saddled the winner of four of the first five renewals of this race from its inaugural running in 2005.
However, since 2010 he has failed to win it on the day, with the “victory” of Josies Orders in the most recent renewal only coming about due to the disqualification of the first home Any Currency.
Indeed, from the 2010 renewal onwards Bolger has had 24 runners in the race including plenty of short-priced contenders and as well as none of them winning, only four of them finished in the first three.
The switching of the race from a handicap to a conditions race starting from 2016 should help Bolger going forward given the class of horse he tends to be sent to go cross-country chasing with, but whether he can reverse his recent lack of success in the race remains to be seen.
Given that the market doesn’t tend to miss the Bolger runners, there can be some value in opposing them. With Bolger likely to have two runners amongst the market leaders for the race this year, that means there is likely to be value elsewhere and the one that makes the most appeal is the Gordon Elliott-trained TIGER ROLL.
The eight-year-old isn’t the most talented horse in the world, but he has become a real star for his connections. He looked a high-class prospect over hurdles when winning the Triumph Hurdle on just his third career start in 2014, but he didn’t progress as hoped in the years after that and looked in danger of being a disappointment until his attentions were turned to chasing.
His connections then decided to send him down the cross-country chase route and he made a promising debut in the discipline at Cheltenham in December
While he blew hot and cold in equal measure during his novice chase season, a victory in the Munster National at Limerick in October 2016 showed that he was more than capable of putting in a big performance when things fell right for him.
Given a winter break heading into last year’s Festival, he returned to the track for the National Hunt Challenge Cup and emerged the three-length victor under a fine ride from Lisa O’Neill.
Having had surgery to correct a kissing spine issue last summer, he returned to the track this season in typical Tiger Roll style with a good run which was quickly followed by a poor effort.
His connections then decided to send him down the cross-country chase route and he made a promising debut in the discipline at Cheltenham in December, jumping quite well in the main and not being at all knocked about when the leaders got away from him after he made a mistake at the “Canal Turn” fence.
With Elliott having since brought him back over to Cheltenham on a non-racing day to school over the cross-country course, he can be expected to be even sharper over his obstacles in the Glenfarclas Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
While his stable mate Cause Of Causes will be a tough nut to crack, if Tiger Roll fancies it on the day, he seems very likely to run a big race.
Kevin's Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):
GLENFARCLAS STEEPLE CROSS COUNTRY CHASE (Wednesday 14th March)
2pts win TIGER ROLL (8/1 Boylesports, StanJames, 7/1 general)