National aces Balko Des Flos and Potters Corner on cross-country duty

Balko Des Flos and Potters Corner are poised to give their owners a real thrill in the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase at Cheltenham on Friday.

Former top Flat jockey Freddy Tylicki is a member of the RacehorseClub’s executive team, the micro-share syndicate that owns Grand National runner-up Balko Des Flos, trained by Henry de Bromhead, and co-owns Potters Corner, winner of the Welsh Grand National in 2019 for trainer Christian Williams.

He reports the pair to have come on plenty for their recent seasonal reappearances.

“They are two very good horses. Potters Corner was third in this race 12 months ago. That was a good performance and was his only run at Cheltenham before. Jack Tudor gets on with him really well and the horse is in good form. He needed his reappearance run, as did Balko. Both have come on for their runs massively,” said Tylicki.

“Henry is very pleased with Balko. Rachael (Blackmore) schooled him the other morning.

“It’s going to be exciting for all the members to go there with two horses in the one race. It’s three-miles-six, there’s going to be plenty of hustle and bustle and everyone is looking forward to it.”

Tylicki believes both horses are ready for the challenge.

“Balko loves the chasing and the ups and downs. He’s the type of horse that suits this race down to the ground. He loves going round there. The slower the ground the better really for them,” he went on.

“This is their proper first test of the year. Potters Corner will try to win the Welsh National again later on in December, with a bit of luck, but it’s all guns blazing for this race.

Potters Corner won the Welsh Grand National in 2019
Potters Corner won the Welsh Grand National in 2019 (David Davies/PA)

“Balko was second in the Grand National. That run was amazing – the first runner for the RacehorseClub and to finish second in the National. It was unbelievable.”

De Bromhead, whose Minella Times foiled Balko Des Flos in the world’s greatest steeplechase, said: “I think we may just stick to cross-country races with him through the season, but the Becher Chase at Aintree is in the back of my mind.

“He had the class for the Grand National and Rachael came in fuming at Cheltenham (after being unseated in the championship event at the Festival in March) as he was flying and loving it, so there was always a good chance that he would take to it.

“With any of them it’s so unpredictable and you just don’t know until you go and thankfully with him he delivered.”

Singing Banjo, trained by Philip Rothwell, won twice over the banks course at Punchestown in the spring and went on to complete a hat-trick at Wexford in June. However, he runs from 13lb out of the handicap due to the presence of Balko Des Flos.

Singing Banjo (right) in action at Punchestown
Singing Banjo (right) in action at Punchestown (Brian Lawless/PA)

“He’s in great form, He’s travelled over really well. We’re very happy with him, he’ll love the good ground,” said the County Wicklow handler.

“It’s a pity Henry is running the top horse because if he didn’t everything would have gone up a stone bar us. He’d have been in the handicap, nearly a stone better off, but that’s the way it is.

“Barry (Walsh), who rides him, his parents own him and they are getting great fun so hopefully he’ll run a nice race. He’ll take to it, no problem. His jumping is very good. He has done lots of it. That’s not an issue.”

Freewheelin Dylan caused a mighty upset at odds of 150-1 in the Irish Grand National and trainer Dermot McLoughlin expects the nine-year-old to relish this jumping test.

“He seems in good form. He’s jumping well and that’s his forte. He loves jumping so we’re hoping for a good run,” said the County Meath handler.

“I think he’ll take to it. This has been the plan, for him to have a change of scenery and just the whole new experience. We’re hoping for the best.”

Martin Keighley has taken his two runners, Talkischeap and Back On The Lash, to Cheltenham twice to get a taste of the cross-country track.

Keighley enjoyed great success with Any Currency in these races and feels his pair can make their mark.

Talkischeap, winner of the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown in 2019, is having his first run for the Condicote handler since his move from Alan King’s stable.

Back On The Lash tries the cross-country course for the first time at Cheltenham
Back On The Lash tries the cross-country course for the first time at Cheltenham (Tim Goode/PA)

Back On The Lash, a seven-year-old, tries this discipline after winning three times over conventional fences.

“They both went schooling there last week. All went very well, they jumped fantastic, and we took them again on Tuesday and they schooled really nicely,” he said.

“If they take it to they are two really nice horses, who could do well in those sort of races.

“It worked with Any Currency. Talkischeap won that big race at Sandown and ran in the National as well. He stays very well if he takes to it it could be ideal for him.

“Back On The Lash jumped super round there but he needs to prove he stays three miles six (furlongs) yet. That is the question mark against him.

“I think he will do, but he hasn’t run over that kind of trip before.”

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