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Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)
Founded in 2005 and replacing the old Cathcart Challenge Cup, the Ryanair Chase is a two miles, five furlongs steeplechase held on each Thursday of the annual Cheltenham Festival. This prestigious Grade One is open to all horses aged five and over with a purse worth £275,000.
Our Ryanair Chase Tip for 2017 is the Willie Mullins’ trained Un De Sceaux, who also holds an entry for the Champion Chase but is available at 9/2 Non Runner No Bet with bet365. Winner over 2m 3f and 2m 5f in France (both on Very Soft), he has a hugely impressive record of 17 wins from 22 starts, plus two runner up places in valuable Grade 1 chases including in the 2016 Champion Chase.
With that two mile contest looking likely to be hotly contested, with Douvan and Fox Norton both posting extremely impressive performances last time out, this race looks the more likely option for Un De Sceaux, who at 169 is significantly clear of any other entrant who would be likely to compete in this race (Uxizandre, the second favourite, holds a rating of 162 over fence). That Alan King trained 9 year old faced Un De Sceaux in the rearranged Clarence House Chase here at Cheltenham on the last weekend of January and it was the Irish raider who came out on top by a comfortable 5 lengths. That was an impressive performance, and his jumping was noticeably better than when making two errors when winning the Tingle Creek at the start of December.
The way he rallied to win that event at Sandown showed his heart, and despite two novicey falls early in his career he has developed into a solid chaser. While he doesn’t appear to be quite up to the standard of winning a Champion Chase, he is in a different class to the other entries for this race and the price he is currently available at looks excellent value with Non Runner No Bet meaning a return of stake if he goes for a different race or misses the Cheltenham Festival.
There have only been 9 renewals of the Ryanair Chase so far; here are the key betting trends to consider:
- 8 of the 9 winners had won over 2m 5f or further
- 8 of the 9 winners had already won a Grade 1 race (Imperial Commander in 2009 the exception)
- 8 of the 9 winners had previously won at Cheltenham (Riverside Theatre the exception)
- Of the 9 winners, 5 had won over 3 miles or further
- 7 of the winners were sent off with SPs of 6/1 or shorter; the other two were 16/1 and 14/1 surprises
- Only 5 of the 9 winners placed on their last start before the Ryanair Chase
Two trainers have won the Ryanair Chase twice; David Pipe with Our Vic (2008) and Dynaste (2014) and Jonjo O’Neill with the only dual winner Albertas Run (2010, 2011). Ryanair Chase jockeys will be glad that A P McCoy has retired as he has won the race an impressive 3 times; twice on Albertas Run and then again with the relatively unfancied Uxizandre in 2015.
Trends Analysis: The Ryanair Chase trip of 2m 5f finds itself sandwiched in between two much higher reputation races in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Gold Cup, meaning horses are often aimed at this race as an after thought when it is clear that their first choice race is not going to be winnable. There are plenty of class horses in every renewal as the number of Grade 1 winners shows, but the relatively poor last time out record can be expected with trainers trying out trips before making their final decision. Stamina being an asset at Cheltenham is no surprise, and the short SPs suggests that the class horses often come to the top.
The Ryanair Chase is fast becoming one of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival. Since its maiden run in 2005, the race has attracted some of the highest quality chasers around, usually looking to see if they have the strength and stamina to mount a Gold Cup bid the following year.
1 ALARY – Bought from France with a big reputation he has failed to live up to thus far, disappointing on both his starts on British soil this season. Pulling up in the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock when lacking fluency, he was starting to tread water and passed by Tea For Two when falling at Exeter on his latest start. Goes down in trip which does make him slightly more interesting but he remains with huge question marks and is impossible to recommend with nothing of note shown thus far. Unproven on ground better than soft.
2 ASO – Very useful handicap horse this season, with perhaps his highlight when a running on second in the Caspian Cavier Gold Cup here in December. Far from disgraced when fourth in the Betbright Chase at Kempton on his latest start but this requires much more and he faces a very tough task at the weights against some proven horses at Grade 1 level. Looks an unlikely player in this and faces a struggle to even place in this despite conditions being to suit and the yard being inform.
3 EMPIRE OF DIRT – Won the Festival Plate at Last Year’s Festival and has been an improving commodity this season. Won the Grade B Troytown on his return at Navan in November comfortably and was far from disgraced when second to Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup on his latest start in February. Drop back in trip unlikely to be a problem as he won the Festival Plate over a similar trip and he has ground conditions to suit. Likely big player for the in form Gordon Elliott team and is the choice of Bryan Cooper. Respected.
4 JOSSES HILL – Ran a brilliant race on his second start of the season when winning the Peterbrough Chase at Huntingdon in December, brushing off Tea For Two and More Of That with ease. Far from disgraced despite finishing last in the King George, only beaten around six lengths and will more than appreciate the drop back to this sort of trip. Better ground will suit him perfectly and he still remains with potential over fences. Nico De Boinville rides and he’s likely to be in the shakeup at a track he does well at, place claims at the very least.
5 SUB LIEUTENANT – Has been improving this season for Henry De Bromhead and posted a near career best when second to Sizing John in the Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles in January. Eight year old who can’t be discounted on the best of his form with ground conditions to suit, but is 0-7 in Grade 1 company which is a concern and is exposed over fences compared to some of these. Perhaps vulnerable in this.
6 UN DE SCEAUX – Multiple Grade 1 winner who is the class of the field, winning two Grade 1s this season alone. He returned this season when gamely winning the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December, showing brilliant battling qualities and determination to get back up when headed. On his latest start he once again won the Clarence House Chase, this year staged at Cheltenham, in imperious fashion. He won by a comfortable five lengths and that effort was arguably a career best from Willie Mullins’ nine year old. Ground unlikely to be a problem for him and he has won over the 2m 5f trip in the past in soft ground in France, so stamina is also not of concern. Likely winner and has to be respected.
7 UXIZANDRE – Made all to win this race back in 2015 with AP McCoy on board and ran for the first time since that success when far from disgraced behind Un De Sceaux in the Clarence House Chase in January. That was encouraging and he’ll like be much happier back up in trip, with better ground certainly in his favour. Alan King’s yard remain in good from and he has to be considered a danger, as he should improve for that comeback run. Interesting.
8 VANITEUX – Nicky Henderson’s eight year old who won a Kempton listed race on his latest start, beating Vibrato Valtat after forging clear on the flat. Smart on his day but question marks remain at this level and he has on more than one occasion flattered to deceive at Grade 1 level at Cheltenham. Conditions to suit and will stay this trip strongly, so can’t be completely discounted for the placings but remains vulnerable for win purposes.
Often used as a Gold Cup potential testing ground, the Ryanair Chase has been blessed with plenty of high profile entrants down the years looking to cut their teeth in a slightly smaller race, before moving up into higher quality fields.
2009 winner Imperial Commander is a prime example of this theory. The eight year old was sent off the 6/1 second favourite behind the highly rated and odds on favourite Voy Por Ustedes. Both were prominent throughout, but as the favourite’s jumping became sloppy, Paddy Brennan came through to take the victory. He backed up this win with Gold Cup success the following year, securing a big race double for Brennan and trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies.
The next two Ryanair Chases were won by Albertas Run and A. P. McCoy. He started as a 14/1 outsider in 2010, but led from a long way out and stayed on gamely for a huge win. Jonjo O’Neill’s ten year old then became the first horse to successfully defend the Ryanair Chase title, as he produced a similar and equally impressive performance to pick up a second consecutive crown.
In 2012, Riverside Theatre became the first favourite to win the race since 2006, finishing strongly to narrowly deny Albertas Run a third straight win, and securing a second Ryanair Chase for trainer Nicky Henderson.
The duo of Colin and Joe Tizzard took the title in 2013, as their start seven year old Cue Card dismantled a high quality field from a 7/2 starting price, making all before stretching away for an impressive nine length victory.
2014’s instalment was a keenly contested affair, but it was David Pipe’s Dynaste who finally prevailed. The 7/4 favourite had to recover from a slow start and Tom Scudamore had plenty of work to do early on to catch up with the leaders. But once he did, he looked confident and moved away over the final few furlongs.
The surprise winner of the 2015 Ryanair was Alan King’s 16/1 outsider Uxizandre. The French bred seven year old won the race from the front, jumping well at a steady pace, then finding more than his challengers over the final straight, leaving the highly rated duo of Ma Filleule (receiving her mares allowance of 7lb) and Don Cossack five lengths behind. Not only did this win provide King with his first winner of the week, but it was also A. P. McCoy’s last ever Cheltenham Festival winner before riding off into retirement!
In 2016, sadly the now rested Vautour was victorious in controversial circumstances. Rich Ricci told the horse racing world for weeks and months that he would run in the Gold Cup so this led to ante post carnage when they announced right before the festival that he would run in the Ryanair Chase. He absolutely hacked up, beating Valseur Lido, an extremely impressive performance but the race will always be remembered for the wrong reasons sadly.
There are 48 entrants at the initial stage. The potential list of Ryanair Chase runners is:
- Arctic Skipper
- Ar Mad
- Art Mauresque
- Black Hercules
- Bristol De Mai
- Carraig Mor
- Champagne Fever
- Champagne West
- Cold March
- Cue Card
- Dodging Bullets
- Empire Of Dirt
- Fox Norton
- God’s Own
- Irish Cavalier
- Josses Hill
- King’s Odyssey
- Kylemore Lough
- Long House Hall
- More Of That
- Road To Riches
- Roi Des Francs
- Royal Regatta
- Saphir Du Rheu
- Shantou Flyer
- Sizing Granite
- Sizing John
- Smad Place
- Sub Lieutenant
- Taquin Du Seuil
- Traffic Fluide
- Un De Sceaux
- Valseur Lido
- Vibrato Valtat
- Viconte Du Noyer
- Village Vic
- Vroum Vroum Mag