Rhys Williams has analysed the cross country race at Cheltenham and has an each way selection.
"He was 3 from 9 in cross country races in France when trained by Augustin de Boisbrunet and the experience of jumping those much tougher cross country courses in France told as he jumped impeccably on his first attempt at this track."
Cross country specialist
The cross country chase tends to get very little attention on the day or in the lead up to the Cheltenham Festival but that changed slightly this season due to a single tweet on 8th March saying that all racing in France was suspended. Cue punters rushing to back Easysland's opponents or laying him on the exchange thinking that he would be unable to travel to Cheltenham. Most bookmakers suspended their markets and Easysland hit a high of 9 on the exchange (only for very small money with a more substantial amount laid at 3.85). But the tweet was incorrect and Easysland turns up here as the 5/6 favourite.
He demolished the field in this race last year, beating Tiger Roll by 17 lengths with another 18 back to Out Sam in third. If he runs to anywhere near that level of form today then he will be very tough to beat but there are doubts over him being able to do that. His only run since came over this C&D in November on good ground when he finished fourth to Kingswell Theatre.
Good ground, or close to it, had been a problem for him in the past when racing in France and it was once again the case in November. The drying ground today has to be at least a slight concern for him. It may not quite get as quick as it was in November but it will certainly be quicker than ideal for a horse who loves the mud.
The other concern is that he's had far from an ideal preparation. Last season he had 4 runs prior to winning this race. This season he's only had one run. He was entered for a race at Pau in late December but didn't run and having then intended to run in mid-January at the same track he was prevented from doing so after testing positive for the EHV-4 virus. That particular virus affected some of Cottin's runners over the winter which resulted in a dip in his results but recent results have been more encouraging which suggests they are starting to come out of the slight slump.
Cottin and Felix de Giles, who takes the ride on him for the second time in his career, have both been positive about how he's working at home but the concerns over how lead me to look elsewhere given his price.
It's very difficult to know what to expect from Tiger Roll, who hasn't shown anything this season. Alpha Des Obeaux, Balko Des Flos and Le Breuil make their cross country debuts. All many have the class to be competitive but current wellbeing is a concern over the first two named while I'm not sure the latter has the speed for this.
Some Neck won this C&D in December but it's the horse he beat, Defi Des Carres, who interests me at the prices. He was 3 from 9 in cross country races in France when trained by Augustin de Boisbrunet and the experience of jumping those much tougher cross country courses in France told as he jumped impeccably on his first attempt at this track.
Having initially raced just behind the leaders, he was soon pressing My Hometown for the lead and took over after taking the bank in the middle of the course for the second time. After jumping the 'canal turn' on the last circuit, he quickened about five lengths clear of his nearest pursuer and he still seemed to be going well approaching 2 out. Driven along entering the home straight, he still looking in control about four lengths clear of Some Neck and even halfway up the run in he looked likely to win but tired very close home and was caught on the line.
Defi Des Carres was receiving plenty of weight from Some Neck that day but I think weights are far less important on this cross country course than in regular chases so I'm not as concerned by them racing off level weights today than I would be in a normal chase.
There's also reasons to think that Defi Des Carres will improve from that run. It was his first start for Charlie Mann after 166 days off and he was ridden too 'aggressively' in front. I think a more patient ride where he tracks the leaders for as long as possible will be more suitable for him and allow him to see out the trip. I think the drying ground may also suit and it's easy to forgive his most recent start in a handicap chase at Plumpton on soft ground.
It may turn out that he's not good enough but in a race where there are doubts over those towards the front of the market, Defi Des Carres appeals as an each way bet at 22/1 with the 4 places.
RHYS' PROFIT/LOSS 2021
P/L: - 14.275pts