16:00 Cheltenham – Uncle Junior poised to win Cross Country
The Irish have dominated the Cross Country since its inception in 2005 and Uncle Junior can continue this stream of success with victory at 7/2.
Ireand have won all runnings of the unique race and are responsible for the three stand-out candidates at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
Sizing Australia is also 5/1 in the Cheltenham odds to successfully defend the title he won 12 months ago and this experience is one reason for his leading claims.
However, it is a slight concern that that he has not tackled the Cross Country fences under race conditions so far this season.
Willie Mullins is double handed with Uncle Junior and 3/1 favourite Scotsirish, giving a conundrum to jockey Patrick Mullins over which to ride.
The pair look evenly matched on paper, with both owning Cross Country victories already this season and both travelling particularly strongly in the farcical tune-up contest at Cheltenham in December when taken onto the wrong course.
Uncle Junior does have to carry 3lb more than his stablemate but the claim of Enda Mullins negates this disadvantage.
Meanwhile, Scotsirish does not have any Cheltenham success on his resume, let alone over the Cross Country obstacles and this is the big negative towards his chances.
Of those at bigger prices, Balthazar King must come into the reckoning at 10/1 for a place at worst if the ground is on the quicker side. He certainly looks the pick of the English contingent trying to break the Irish dominance.
Furthermore, with the top jockeys usually foregoing the Cross Country, the fact that Richard Johnson is taking the ride must show something towards high highly connections are treating his chances.
A New Story is 16/1 and despite his recent form being particularly average, he has placed in the Cross Country in each of the last four years.