Although only being introduced to the Cheltenham in 2005 the Ryanair Chase has fast become one of the major races of the Festival. At first it did seem the race was going to be met with some raised eyebrows by trainers due to the unique two mile and five furlong distance it was run over but seven years later and it has become a race that is given the upmost of respect by a lot of the big-hitting stables.
They see it as a perfect go between for experienced horses that don’t have the pace to run in the Queen Mother Champion Chase over two miles or the stamina to tackle a Gold Cup.
The Daily Telegraph backed the first running of the event but the race has really taken off under the new sponsorship of Ryanair backed by the racing enthusiast Michael O’Leary.
O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, even came close to winning his own money in 2008 when owning the runner-up Mossbank.
There have been some real high-class winners of this race, none so more than Imperial Commander in 2009 who used it as a stepping stone to go on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following year.
Ryanair Chase Tips
Nicky Henderson and celebrity owner Jimmy Nesbitt’s Riverside Theatre, romped home in the Betfair Chase at Ascot in February and at 6/1 looks the bet. Don’t forget , take advantage of an increased free bet of £100/€100 from Paddy Power for all visitors of Footybunker.com to spend on any race at Cheltenham! Claim here!
Jonjo O’Neill’s classy Albertas Run is the current champion and has been for the past two seasons. The horse comes to life when Cheltenham comes around, especially when being partnered by 16-time Champion Jockey AP McCoy. For the last two Festivals the 2010 Sports Personality of the Year has got a fine tune out of the Trevor Hemmings-owned gelding and defied his odds of 14/1 and 6/1 to land the spoils. He is 10/1 to do so again this season.
When planning a punting attack on the race looking for past Cheltenham form usually is the path to profit. Past course winners have produced all seven winners and a further five runners-up with races such as the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Boylesports Gold Cup especially, proving a good guide.
The Ryanair Chase doesn’t quite provide as much euphoria than the Gold Cup or Champion Chase in terms of quality but has been a friend to the punters since its inception seven years ago.
Only one winner has returned at odds of 6/1 or bigger or been outside the top three in the betting.
It will probably prove profitable to keep the faith with market principles this year. At this stage last year’s Jewson Novices winner, run over the same distance but for the novice generation, Noble Prince is the ante-post favourite. Trainer Paul Nolan has decided to keep the horse running over two miles for his prep races but it hasn’t really worked as he has finished second in his last three races. The step up to his optimum distance in the Ryanair though should bring about an improvement.
Distance isn’t an issue for Somersby, who can perform at the highest level over a variety of trips, but Henrietta Knight has come out and said that the Ryanair should be his number one target.
The really interesting contender is the Nicky Henderson-trained Riverside Theatre, who has been off the track for a year with a pelvis injury but is due to return to competitive action in the build-up to the Festival. His best form, which includes a superb second behind Long Run in the King George at Kempton, would give him a huge chance it’s just a case of how the injuries have affected his ability.
Two-time winner Albertas Run is likely to bid for a record breaking third win in the race but suffered an injury in the autumn and doesn’t look the force of old while last year’s runner-up Kalahari King also has gone the wrong way this season.