Two of the last three winners of the Cross Country Chase at Cheltenham Festival tasted success on their first experience of the unique course at the Prestbury Park venue.
And now 12 months on from Rivage D’Or’s success, another new contender for the race looks solid value to make his cross country debut a winning one.
Warren Greatrex’s Dolatulo has been schooling over the big hedges and banks in the centre of the Cheltenham course in preparation for a shot at Festival glory, something he is priced up at 16/1 to achieve.
Greatrex has suggested that his nine-year-old “could be made for” a crack at the race on the Wednesday of the Festival since the start of the year.
— Ben Hastie (@bencheltenham) February 22, 2016
While he’s not been in competition on the course before, the son of Le Fou can clearly handle jumping a unique obstacle.
Twice the 2014 Rowland Meyrick winner has competed over Aintree’s Grand National course, firstly completing in the big one itself (albeit last of 19 finishers), before being beaten just two lengths into third in the Becher Chase in December.
He jumped well on both of those occasions and has shown himself to be proficient at clearing his obstacles without a moments worry – staying on his feet in all 36 races over hurdle or fences to date.
Having transformed into a better chaser than hurdler, Dolatulo could be somewhat of a dark horse for Festival success.
A distinctly average run in the Sky Bet Chase last time out at Doncaster will need to be forgiven, but there is every reason to believe he can be a latecomer to the party.
With the race’s handicap status disappearing this year for the first time, those higher rated horses in the Cross Country Chase are likely to attract the most interest.
Based on Ladbrokes’ current market for the race, Dolatulo would be the sixth-highest rated in the field should they all line up, behind the likes of Balthazar King and On His Own.
Nevertheless, this has reportedly been the plan for some time now, and would could yet see more improvement eked out of him with this new type of test at Cheltenham.
His trainer has been in sublime form with his horses of late with 66 per cent of his runners in the past fortnight either placing or winning.
It’s been as impressive with his record specifically with chasers too, with the Lambourn-based handler boasting a 38 per cent strike rate with his chasers since October.
By all accounts Dolatulo’s initial exposure to the cross country course was a positive one, and it would come as no huge suprise were he to make in three in the last four years for the ‘Cheese Wedge’ newbies.
All odds and markets correct as of the date of publishing.