Easysland and Tiger Roll will cross swords once again in a top-class renewal of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Friday.
Gordon Elliott’s dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll was sent off the odds-on favourite to complete his Aintree preparations with victory in the cross-country feature at the Festival back in March – only for French raider Easysland to dish out a 17-length beating.
Trained by David Cottin, Easysland was unbeaten in his previous six starts before that effortless victory – with JP McManus snapping up the six-year-old prior to his Festival run.
Easysland has not been seen since the Festival, and while in contrast Tiger Roll enjoyed a spin on the Flat at Navan last month he will have to concede 4lb to his old rival this time after the pair raced off level weights in March.
Tiger Roll will have Robbie Power aboard for the first time, with Keith Donoghue, who usually rides him in his cross-country missions, opting not to make the trip to Britain due to the 14-day quarantine period he would have to undertake on returning to Ireland in line with Covid-19 restrictions.
He told his bookmakers.co.uk blog: “This was a very hard decision.
“As everyone knows I adore Tiger Roll, without this horse I massively doubt I would still be a jockey. So every time he runs I obviously want to be on board.
“The decision not to ride Tiger Roll this weekend was hard enough without adding in the fact that he is in really good form at home. As I’ve said before you know Tiger Roll is ready for action again when he starts acting wild. The more kicking and bucking he does, the more you know he is coming back to himself.
“I just can’t risk the journey with Covid. Being a jockey is all about momentum and I’m enjoying the best season I’ve had in a long time. I think I’d be stupid to jeopardise that with the potential of two weeks out of action.
“It doesn’t take long to be forgotten in this game and I want to make sure I’m available for every ride I can be here in Ireland.
“I hope the real Tiger Roll shows up on Friday, but in any case he will improve a lot for the outing and I don’t think his legendary story is finished quite yet!”
Adding further interest to the three-mile-six-furlong event is the Christian Williams-trained Potters Corner, who will be having his first start over the cross-country obstacles.
The 10-year-old won the Welsh National on his latest start in December, with a planned Grand National run scuppered by the Covid-19 lockdown and cancellation of the Aintree meeting – although he did win the virtual version that proved so popular.
Cottin also runs Vino Royale with Little Bruce, Kings Temptation, Beau De Brizais, Vivas and Kingswell Theatre – winner of this race in 2017 – all having to run from out of the handicap due to Tiger Roll’s mark of 171.