Robbie Power: Tiger Roll the underdog but prep run hopefully an advantage
Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase | 3m6f | ITV4/RTV
With prominent runners from France, Ireland and Wales in this cross-country race, it is about as cosmopolitan as jump racing gets.
Normally where the horses are trained is more of a news angle than an analytical one, but it could matter to punters here. The main consideration concerns French-trained odds-on favourite Easysland.
The French style is to build up gradually and it is unlikely Easysland will be as fit as he was when thrashing Tiger Roll in March on slightly worse terms. He was race-fit that day and has not run since.
Conversely, Tiger Roll comes here with a run behind him. It was on the Flat and he achieved little more than getting the desired work in.
If his connections' main aim this season were revenge on Easysland, you would bank on him being hard-fit here but that is not the case and, now he is almost 11, one eye will surely be on Aintree in April.
The reason Easysland is on better terms here is because this race is a handicap. It is easy to forget, and arguably practical to ignore, when talking about 4lb over nearly four miles of terrain that evidently suits both horses but it could matter when they are giving more than a stone to the Welsh National winner, Potters Corner.
With Jack Tudor's 5lb claim, Potters Corner will carry just 10st 1lb. Should he take to the course, which seems likely given his solid jumping, his form commands more respect than odds of 9-1. He too has bigger days in his diary and suits being trained to targets.
With the rest all out of the weights, it would be surprising if it did not concern only the big three. Passing mention is given to Little Bruce, a sound-jumping, prominent racer with bags of stamina, who it is fancied will be the last of the others to disappear off the screen.
Keith Melrose, betting editor
'Tiger Roll is definitely the underdog'
It seems odd to cast Tiger Roll as an underdog but Robbie Power believes the diminutive chaser has more than a puncher's chance of getting revenge on his cross-country festival conqueror Easysland.
There were 17 lengths between them last March and Tiger Roll is 4lb worse off in the weights but his jockey is focusing on the positives.
"He's definitely the underdog," said Power. "Tiger Roll has to give Easysland weight here and he'll probably have to put in a career-best performance to beat him under these conditions.
"But you have to look for the positives. The ground should be beautiful for him and Tiger Roll has a brilliant record around the cross-country course. He's also had a prep run, whereas Easysland hasn't, so hopefully that should be an advantage."
Power, who won the 2007 Grand National with Silver Birch for Gordon Elliott, has replaced Tiger Roll's regular rider Keith Donoghue, who forfeited the ride due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.
"His connections would love to have kept Keith on and it's tough for them to put up a jockey who has never sat on Tiger Roll before," said Power. "However, that's the way things are at the moment with the restrictions Horse Racing Ireland have in place.
"It makes it difficult for trainers and owners to make plans. I'll have a chat with Keith and Davy [Russell] about him. Keith knows him inside out. I won't look to do anything different with him.
"I've ridden in the cross-country race a few times and I'm looking forward to having another go on Tiger Roll."
Easysland back for more
Easysland slammed his rivals in the Glenfarclas Chase in March and came home by 17 lengths, the widest winning margin at the festival.
The French-trained six-year-old has also won at the December meeting here and returns to Cheltenham on an eight-timer, having mopped up races at Pau and Compiegne over the last two years.
"He's in good form," said trainer David Cottin. "He won't be at 100 per cent as this is not his main objective but I expect him to run well for his comeback. He's really suited to the course at Cheltenham.
"He's really suited to the cross-country course and goes better there than at any other racecourse. I think he can improve again."
Cottin is also hoping for a good display from dual Granville-St Pair Sur Mer winner Vino Royale, and added: "He's been in good form. He's not carrying too much weight and should run well."
What they say:
Christian Williams, trainer of Potters Corner
He's in great form. He schooled well over the cross-country fences at the track a couple of weeks ago. We're targeting the race as we are just trying to give him a different avenue. This could help get another season or two out of him and I'm optimistic he'll enjoy it. It might take him a run or two to get his act together round there, but he is fairly adaptable and it looks a good starting point. He's being thrown straight into the lion's den with Easysland and Tiger Roll.
Ben Case, trainer of Kings Temptation
He's the sort who should take to it. He's schooled twice and he couldn't have done it any better. There are limited opportunities for him and he looks as though he should stay the trip.
Michael Scudamore, trainer of Kingswell Theatre
He's a different horse round there, he really loves it. He has plenty to do from out of the handicap but he'll be happier on the better ground, which he didn't get all last season.
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