Cheltenham ’11 – Ryanair Chase

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The third race on St. Patricks Day will be the seventh renewal of the Ryan Air Chase and the fourth renewal since it gained Grade 1 status. It’s open to horses five year old and older, run over two miles five furlongs, on the Cheltenham New Course, with a total of seventeen fences to be jumped.

The race was won last year by the Jonjo O’Neill trained Albertas Run, under a fine ride by AP McCoy, winning at odds of 14/1. The trainer to follow here however, is Paul Nicholls, who has saddled two winners, one second and one third.

6/6 had previous winning form at Cheltenham
6/6 had no more than four runs since October
6/6 had an official rating of at least 152
5/6 had a top three finish last time out
5/6 had placed in either the Paddy Power or December Gold Cup
5/6 came from first three in the betting market
5/6 had winning form at 2m5f or above

Poquelin – P Nicholls
8yo black gelding
Lahint (USA) – Babolna (FR) (Tropular (UK))
Clear favourite in the current ante-post market and it isn’t hard to understand why. Finished runner-up in the race last year and boasts four wins at the course; The latest of which came in November, when he made a mockery of 16/1 odds, in the Vote A.P. Gold Cup. When it comes towards the business end of his races however, he can often put in a poor jump, which at a track like Cheltenham, could put an end to his challenge. Given there are a few notable absentees this year, he does looks near certain to feature in the finish, thus his followers can be confident of getting a run for their money.

[frame_right src=”×150.jpg” href=”#”]Riverside Theatre[/frame_right]

Riverside Theatre– N Henderson
7yo bay gelding
King’s Theatre (IRE) – Disallowed (IRE) (Distinctly North (USA))
Arrived at last year’s Festival as a potentially player in the Arkle, but came close to getting tailed off, before storming home to finish fifth. Disappointed at Punchestown soon after, when coming under pressure long before home, prior to falling five out. Has looked a vastly improved performer since, winning easily on reappearance, before a career best performance saw him take second in the King George. Duly confirmed the promise of that run, when slamming some useful performers in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase, readily quickening clear when Geraghty shook him up. His jumping has looked solid and it is very hard to find a reason why this horse will not run a massive race, come March.

Somersby – H Knight
7yo bay gelding
Second Empire (IRE) – Back To Roost (IRE) (Presenting (UK))
Consistent horse, only finishing once outside the first three to date, when a sh-hd fourth on his hurdling debut. Looked a smart chaser when winning first two outings over fences, and slightly unlucky not to catch Sizing Europe, in last year’s Arkle Trophy. Stepped up in trip at Aintree, but perhaps showed signs of a tough season, when bolting to post, jumping poorly and ultimately failing to land a serious blow. Many think this trip is worth a try but trainer has previously stated the Queen Mother is his likelier destination.
Tranquil Sea – E O’Grady
9yo bay gelding
Sea Raven (IRE) – Silver Valley (IRE) (Henbit (USA))
Heavily fancied for last year’s renewal, having seen off Poquelin a few months before, over track and trip, then posting two solid efforts on bottomless ground at Leopardstown. Never appeared to be comfortable, however, and when push came to shove, four fences from home, he rapidly dropped away and was beaten by a wide margin. It is hard to believe that we saw the best of him that day and has shown since, he must still be respected, having notched two graded wins in Ireland. His record fresh is nothing short of remarkable and could be the key to his chances here.
Kalahari King – F Murphy
10yo bay/brown gelding
Kahyasi (UK) – Queen Of Warsaw (FR) (Assert (IRE))
Top-class chaser who placed in the Arkle two years ago and in the Champion Chase last year. Went slightly off the boil after though, when falling at Aintree and a never nearer fourth at Punchestown. His return to the racetrack this season has been highly disappointing, with four heavy defeats in as many runs. Only hope here being that a step-up in trip will bring about a return to form, and that’s not unthinkable, given he tends to stay on at the end of his races. Massive leap of faith is required though, and his odds are ridiculously short so it may be best to look elsewhere.

Others to Note:
Albertas Run has been in shocking form this season and his current prices, can only be based around him landing this last year, while Golden Silver and Captain Cee Bee are disregarded as the Queen Mother is their far likelier destination. At bigger prices, Gauvain and Deep Purple have bits and pieces of strong form but were both comfortably beaten by Riverside Theatre a couple of weeks ago; Therefore, it is hard to see why that form would be reversed. Noland could be the one to run a big race at double figure odds, having shown a welcome return to form with a battling victory in the Aon Chase, two weeks back. The Nightingale may also be an interesting competitor, if bouncing back from a poor performance in the King George while Nacarat would surely put in a solid front-running performance if taking his chance.

Paul Nicholls has a good record in this race and has strong claims of enhancing that with the current ante-post favourite, Poquelin, along with two lively outsiders in the shape of The Nightingale and Noland. If the latter of that trio, alongside Nacarat, were to line-up here, I would be tempted by a little each-way punt on them due to their potentially attractive prices. However, I am confident the winner will once again come from the head of the betting, and as a result, my selection is Riverside Theatre. He has, arguably, the best form on offer and really impressed, when taking the Ascot Chase with ease. Tranquil Sea has a fine record when returning from a break and as such, could prove the biggest danger.

[notification_box]1pt win Riverside Theatre @ 6/1 with Boylesports, PaddyPower, Coral [/notification_box]

(see Free Bets page for offers on these firms)



  1. I must admit I’m not the biggest fan of Riverside Theatre for this, and my idea of the winner for this race would be Tranquil Sea, why? I hear you say!

    Well…the horse has pretty decent form in the book as it is, and won a PaddyPower Gold Cup at Cheltenham back in 2009, so we know he goes on the track.

    The key to Tranquil Sea is his rest pattern. He needs at least 6 weeks between races for him to run to his very best, and last year they made the mistake of running him just 18 days before the RyanAir (which he disappointed in).

    If you looked at his chase form alone with a space of 42+ days between runs his form figures would read: 152121

    Now there is a break of 92 days between his last run and Ryanair Chase day, and his record with runs > 90 days spaced reads: 2111 – the second placing came in a maiden hurdle after NHF races. So with a break of 90+ days he is unbeaten over fences.

    I’ve backed him at 8/1, and think he’ll go very well in an open year.

  2. Interesting thoughts lads but I cant have Poquelin beat. Im sure Nicholls assistant put it up as his bet of the meeting and his form this year has been solid.


  3. well my selection has been withdrawn through injury – pretty disappointed as i thought he was a cracking bet

    somersby will no doubt foolishly bid for the champion chase and therefore i will now side with Tranquil Sea

  4. Agree with Rooster Booster that Weird Al is the forgotten horse. Course and distance winner. Dead heated with Paddy Power winner on seasonal reappearance. Probably the only improving type in the race following withdrawl of Riverside Theatre. 16/1 more than fair.

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