The Ryanair Chase was first introduced back in 2005, with the race now taking place annually on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival. The Ryanair Chase is run on the New Course at Cheltenham over a distance of two miles and five furlongs, with a total of 17 fences to jump for runners and riders.
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Preview By Ed Quigley
Growing up just outside Cheltenham, Ed spent over a decade with the Racing Post. He was best known for his Longshot column, RPTV, and as a weekly columnist in the Racing & Football Outlook. Now as a freelance Racing Broadcaster and Journalist, he is a regular on Ladbrokes TV and Sky Sports Racing amongst other things. He describes himself as a Cheltenham Festival fanatic!
This looks one of the most wide-open renewals in years, with the participation about many of those towards the top of the market being in doubt. Therefore, what appears to be an antepost market offering lots of value, is actually one full of tricks and traps.
The horse I would be most keen on if he lined up would be Footpad (6/1) who I think becomes of real interest by stepping up in trip. Things haven’t gone right for last year’s Arkle winner, and the form of his Arkle win doesn’t look the strongest, but I am of the view he needs further these days, and with a smart course record in the book, he has to be taken seriously. Let’s not forget that he tackled 3m as novice hurdler, so going up in distance isn’t foreign to him. He has produced a lot of his best form with significant cut in the ground, so forecast rain would not be a worry for the gelding.
Monalee (5/1) represents the Henry De Bromhead set-up, and you could argue is a bit unlucky to have not won more than three times from his eight starts over fences, but is a high class chaser who merits plenty of respect. He has been runner-up in two Grade 1’s at his previous visits to Prestbury Park, and connections will feel he has every chance of going one better here.
His jumping has been brought into question before, but he appears to be getting his act together in that department and recorded a smart success at Gowran Park last time out, seeing off last year’s Gold Cup third, Anibale Fly. Connections say they will leave it to the last minute to decide whether he goes for this race or up in trip for the Gold Cup. In my view they would be bonkers to run him in the Gold Cup; I don’t think he gets a yard over 3m.
Min (6/1), looks a hard horse to place at this year. Twice a runner-up at the Cheltenham Festival (Supreme 2016 and this race 12 months ago) he has been operating at high level but like every other horse in training, his nemesis Altior has stood in his way. I think in an ideal world, a stiff 2m suits him as he can be a bit keen, whereas over 2m5f, you have to hold on to him a bit.
Obviously, the issue is that connections appear fed up with seeing the backside of Altior. They say you should never be afraid of one horse, and this Grade 1 winner is a very smart horse in his own right. If the ground became very testing, I think they would be forced their hand to drop him back to 2m and I am sure the Willie Mullins camp will leave the call right until the last minute.
Waiting Patiently (10/1)
Waiting Patiently (10/1) is a high class individual who has not had the rub of the green this year. He was popping away nicely at the back of the field in the King George, before being badly hampered by Bristol De Mai as he fell and then unseated Brian Hughes. Last time out in the Ascot Chase, he bumped into a freak, as he tried in vain to catch Cyrname but to no avail. He ended 17 lengths behind the Paul Nicholls runner, who now is officially the highest rated horse in training.
Connections have always stressed that he must have sufficient cut in the ground, and have often held their reservations as to whether he would enjoy the undulations of Cheltenham. If he lines up he is one for the shortlist, but he may be better served by Aintree or Punchestown.
Top Notch (10/1)
Top Notch (10/1) is small in stature, but big in heart. He was last seen beating Black Corton quite convincingly at Kempton, and lines up here with a solid each-way chance for the same owners of Footpad. He is tough and game, but with an official rating of 162, it is questionable as to whether he is just shy of the level needed to land this. Nicky Henderson echoed that sentiment in a recent bulletin. In the punters favour, he definitely runs in this race as long as he is fit, and he is a real trier, so you should get a run for your money.
Where will Frodon (10/1) run? That has been one of the big debates in the build up to this year’s meeting. After winning the Cotswold Chase connections seemed adamant that he would be heading for the 3m2f showpiece, but the feeling now, like many horses in here, that he could stick to his more tried and tested 2m5f for this encounter.
He ran his rivals ragged off top weight in the December Gold Cup and I think he would be best served by running in this contest – I am not sure he has what it takes to tough it out over the Gold Cup trip. He is such a good jumper, and has taken his form to new levels this season, so I think by running in this race, you are aiding his assets. Bryrony Frost gets on so well with him, and which ever race he runs in, he will be one of the most popular horses lining up.
Un De Sceaux (10/1)
Un De Sceaux (10/1) has been one of the flag bearers for Willie Mullins for quite some time now, but was comfortably beaten by Balko Des Flos (16/1) in this race twelve months ago, and is unlikely to get the testing ground which he relishes. Father time waits for no horse, and with 11 years under his belt, his best days are more than likely to be behind him and he will be struggling to win again this time around.
Obviously if the ground ended up a bog he could never be ruled out, but you also have to factor in the possibility that they might want one last crack at Altior, after the pair produced a thriller in the Tingle Creek at Sandown in December. He has more than one viable Cheltenham target and looks best left alone from a betting perspective.
Coney Island (33/1)
Coney Island (33/1) has struggled with injuries in recent years, but is on target for this contest, and has some very good form in his locker. for a 33/1 shot. He was Grade One winner in his novice days, and if he brought his best game to the table he would be a major player.
Connections felt he didn’t see out the trip over 3m at Leopardstown last time out and should be much happier at this distance. He could be the Ryanair Chase dark horse. He doesn’t have many miles on the clock, and if he is over his niggles, he has the raw ability to play a part a big price.
The Storyteller (25/1)
The Storyteller (25/1) who should enjoy this 2m5f assignment, which is a trip he is much happier at. Without disgracing himself, he hasn’t really convinced over longer trips this season. He landed the Plate in determined fashion at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and could be overpriced for the Gordon Elliot team.
Footpad – 6/1
Coney Island – 33/1 (each-way)
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Horses aged five years and older are able to take part in the race, with the Ryanair Chase having been upgraded from Grade 2 to Grade 1 status in 2008. The Ryanair Chase is now one of the most popular races when it comes to Cheltenham Festival betting, with 8/1 shot Balko Des Flos having upset favourite Un De Sceaux in 2018. Balko Des Flos won by a margin of four and a half lengths from Un De Sceaux, with Cloudy Dream a further eight lengths back in third.
Jockey Ruby Walsh is the leading jockey when it comes to the Cheltenham Ryanair Chase, with the 39-year-old having four successes to his name over the years, onboard Thisthatandtother, Taranis, Vautour and Un De Sceaux. Meanwhile, trainers Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O’Neill, Nicky Henderson, David Pipe and Willie Mullins all have two Ryanair Chase wins to their name, while Henry de Bromhead came out on top last year with Balko Des Flos.
Albertas Run is the only horse to have ever won the Ryanair Chase twice, with jockey Tony McCoy having led the thoroughbred to consecutive victories in 2010 and 2011. Both 2017 and 2018 winners Un De Sceaux and Balko Des Flos are among the outsiders in the Ryanair Chase 2019 betting markets, with the likes of Footpad and Monalee being the leading candidates this time around. However, with the race being known for upsets and surprises, then it could well be that there is another shock winner at Cheltenham this year.