Ryanair Chase Tips - 2.50pm Cheltenham

Leading Contenders

It’s fourteen years since Paul Nicholls and Ruby Walsh teamed up to win the very first running of the Ryanair Chase with Thisthatandtother. In the early days it was a race for those not quite good enough to win either the Champion Chase or the Gold Cup and was a sort of consolation prize.

Now we have two and a half mile specialists and recent winners such as Cue Card, Vautour and Dynaste bear testimony to that. This years contest looks a very competitive event and we should start by looking at last year’s winner Un De Sceaux.

Now a 10yo so technically a veteran in horse racing terms, he looks as good as ever and has won both of his races so far this season. He kicked off with an easy task at Cork where he won by 25 lengths from Top Gamble.

He then stepped in class and went to Ascot for the Clarence House Chase, he only faced four rivals but was very impressive and won the race for the third time by a comfortable 7 lengths. There is no doubt he’s happy at two miles for the most part but has found no problem stepping up in trip when it’s required, you do just wonder whether he’s vulnerable here more than anywhere.

Willie Mullins has won this race for the last two years and has a few options here apart from last year’s winner. Yorkhill would be a logical choice after winning the JLT last season but he could go up in trip and run in the Gold Cup.

Min is worth considering; he was stepped up to 2m4f this season at Gowran Park and won as he liked. Last time out he won at Leopardstown over a shorter trip but was demoted by the stewards for interfering with Simply Ned. That has to go down as a disappointment and probably ended any hopes of going for the Champion Chase.

The old warhorse Djakadam who has been second in the Gold Cup twice could be diverted here. His record over this shorter trip is pretty impressive, he has won two Grade 1’s in his last three starts at 2m4f.

Nicky Henderson thinks this is the perfect race for his 7yo Top Notch. He couldn’t quite cut the mustard at the minimum trip but has since bagged his first Grade 1 at 2m4f and has won two Grade 2 events this season at this slightly longer distance 2m5f.

Last year he was second to Yorkhill in the JLT and that was his third Festival appearance after a second in the Triumph and a 5th in the Champion Hurdle. He is certainly a horse for the big stage and looks a leading contender.

Fox Norton looks likely to run here after flirting with a Gold Cup entry, his failure in the King George has put paid to that and a drop back in trip looks the best bet. He was second in the Champion Chase last season but his victory at Aintree over an extra four furlongs showed he had plenty of stamina.

He was a costly second in the Tingle Creek, which told connections another tilt at the Champion Chase was probably pointless so this race is the only other option. If he can come back after a break on top form he could go very well in a contest the trainer won with Cue Card.

A victory for the North would go down very well amongst racegoers and Malcolm Jefferson could be the trainer to provide it. Some will remember his amazing double with Cape Tribulation and Attaglance in 2012 so he certainly knows what it takes.

His improving 7yo Waiting Patiently is the latest stable star to fly the flag from his base at Norton. A horse inherited from Keith Reveley last season he won his only three starts over fences including a victory over Politologue.

After a break he came back with an easy win at Carlisle and then stepped up in class to win a Listed contest at Kempton by 8 lengths. He’s now rated 164 so has few options and looks likely to lock horns with the big boys now.

Paul Nicholls is tempted to run the 6yo Frodon, he doesn’t really have many other options and this improving youngster slammed a decent field at Cheltenham by 17 lengths last time out so is probably worth a try in better company.

Gigginstown House Stud have a couple of entries that are worth mentioning, they had a decent Cheltenham last year but would to win their ‘own’ race for the first time. Henry De Bromhead saddles Balko Des Flos who was a good second at Leopardstown in the Christmas Chase over three miles. He would be better suited by this trip and is still improving at the age of seven.

Road To Respect another Gigginstown runner won that contest over Christmas and he beat Yorkhill in a Grade 1 at Fairyhouse last April so brings plenty of very useful form to the table. He’s entered in the Gold Cup and the owner has a few other options here so we will have to wait and see on that one.

Trainer Noel Meade’s 7yo Disko also runs in the Michael O’Leary colours and this lovely looking grey won a Grade 2 at Down Royal on his seasonal debut in November. He has improved a stone since last spring and ran a fine race to be third in the JLT behind Yorkhill and Top Notch last March. He’s still learning and with only seven chase starts in his career there could be more to come yet.

Ryanair Chase Runners

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Ryanair Chase Trends

Ryanair Chase Previous Winners

Year Winner Age Jockey Trainer SP
2017 Un De Sceaux 9 Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins 7/4
2016 Vautour 7 Ruby Walsh Willie Mullins Evs
2015 Uxizandre 7 Tony McCoy Alan King 16/1
2014 Dynaste 8 Tom Scudamore David Pipe 3/1
2013 Cue Card 7 Joe Tizzard Colin Tizzard 9/2
2012 Riverside Theatre 8 Barry Geraghty Nicky Henderson 7/2
2011 Albertas Run 10 Tony McCoy Jonjo O'Neill 6/1
2010 Albertas Run 9 Tony McCoy Jonjo O'Neill 14/1
2009 Imperial Commander 8 Paddy Brennan Nigel Twiston-Davies 6/1
2008 Our Vic 10 Timmy Murphy David Pipe 4/1


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