Known by its official name also, the December Festival Hurdle, this is a Grade 1 hurdle race run over two miles which acts as a major stepping stone towards the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March. Run at Leopardstown as part of their Christmas Festival on Sunday December 26th, the Ryanair Hurdle 2022 will feature some of the top two-mile runners in Ireland, and indeed possibly Britain too. Past winners of this race have included subsequent Champion hurdlers Istabraq and Hurricane Fly among others, with some of racing’s greats having had their names etched onto the trophy.
Given that there have been many returning winners, including Istabraq who’d been down this road in the 90’s, using the actual age of these winners is not accurate. Ages of the 15 unique winners in this time period though shows us that they’ve all been aged 4-8, in fact 13 of the 15 were aged 5-8 which seems to be ideal for fancied Ryanair Hurdle runners.
Again, taking out the returning winners, 5 of 15 favourites have won at a rate rather low for such a big race meaning we should absolutely not be relying on market leaders to point out where the true quality lies.
8 winners of this event since 2000 have gone on to be placed in the Champion Hurdle, one was brought down and the great Istabraq was sent off favourite so its clear that despite not relying on favourites we absolutely need to be looking at those being aimed at the big one at Cheltenham when making our selections.
Trainer Willie Mullins has begun to dominate in recent times, so any good value runner of his in the Ryanair Hurdle 2021 should be noted carefully.
The best place to look for value in races of this huge stature is with the major firms, so you could do worse than check out Ladbrokes and BetVictor when betting is opening up on the event. 888 Cheltenham offers are definitely worth your attention as well.
New bonuses could be forthcoming, but the usual ‘non-runner, no bet’ deal should be in force meaning whatever we back ante post, we do so risk free. Also ‘best odds guaranteed’ are offered as standard by the major firms which is why it’s often best to stick with them, meaning when your final selection is made you should take the price on offer when you place the bet on the morning of the race.
Despite dominating yet another race in Ireland, trainer Willie Mullins’ horses aren’t all allowed to go off at short prices and so it was the case with his Sharjah (6/1) in the 2018 running of this race.
While his Melon was better fancied at 7/2 and Gordon Elliott’s Samcro was the favourite, a 6/4 shot, Sharjah was not without his supporters after beating Faugheen in the Morgiana Hurdle the previous month.
Having been held up early by Patrick Mullins, Sharjah was allowed to grab the lead before the last flight and then stretched clear to eventually win by a relatively comfortable 3¾ lengths. Here’s a look at every winner from 2010 onwards, along with how well they did at the following Cheltenham Festival.