With all the headlines surrounding Tiger Roll’s stunning return to form in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, it was easy to forget about defending champion Easysland. Tipped by many as the likeliest winner of the race due to Tiger Roll’s age and poor form, the David Cottin-trained horse could only muster a second-place finish, trailing the heralded winner by a distant 18 lengths.
While it was a victory that delighted horse racing fans given how beloved Tiger Roll is, the result represented disappointment for Cottin and Easysland’s owner J. P. McManus. It was hardly a disgrace to lose to the horse that had won the Cross Country Chase two years running in 2018 and 2019, but the distance between Tiger Roll and Easysland is what will grate on the latter’s connections. Given the fact that Easysland beat Tiger Roll last year by a similar distance, it’s fair to say the result was not what was expected.
The news following the Cheltenham Festival is that Easysland will not be run in this year’s Grand National, even though the seven-year-old had been fancied by many to make a decent stab at winning the Aintree showpiece. Having been listed around the 33/1 mark on the page with the latest 2021 Grand National odds, many will be disappointed that Easysland has been taken out of the running. Trainer Cottin stated that the horse is taking a break before McManus decides on the next step.
“Easysland has gone off on his holidays to Ireland after his run at Cheltenham on Wednesday, he will not be running in the Grand National,” the Frenchman said in the wake of the Festival. “I haven’t spoken to the owners about future plans yet but I am sure that he will have a good holiday and we will bring him back for next autumn”
It’s fair to say that all of Easysland’s connections view the Cross Country Chase as a major opportunity missed. Having won the race last year by such a comfortable margin, both Cottin and McManus will have been left scratching their heads as to why Easysland failed to get going. According to Cottin, a combination of unfavourable conditions and an inspired opponent saw Easysland’s dream of a Cross Country double come crashing down.
“The was a notable question mark this year with the ground, the better ground was certainly not to our advantage but it suited Tiger Roll, unlike last year,” Cottin went on. “We all know how good Tiger Roll is, he’s a champion. Looking back on last year and the heavy ground, it probably knocked the speed out of Tiger Roll and it suited us.
“I think he (Easysland) ran an excellent race, there is nothing we would change, we were simply beaten by a champion who came to life on the good ground and now he will head off for a well-deserved holiday.”
Easysland joins Tiger Roll on the list of possible Grand National contenders that will not be taking part in the famous old race. Having lost at Cheltenham, the Grand National represented a chance for Easysland to reassert his position as one of the best performers over long distances, but it’s clear that McManus has seen that the horse needs a rest. Who knows, we may see him back in action for a crack at the Aintree showpiece next year.