The third race on Thursday will be the eighth renewal of the Ryan Air Chase and the fifth renewal since it gained Grade 1 status. The race is open to horses aged five and above, 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 6-1, successfully defending his crown having won the race the previous year. It looks like Albertas Run will be coming back to attempt to win his third consecutive Ryan Air Chase but will be heading to The Festival off the back of an injury, and it’ll be some performance if he can pull it off.
7/7 had previous winning form at Cheltenham
7/7 had no more than four runs since October
7/7 had an official rating of at least 152
5/7 had a top three finish last time out
5/7 had placed in either the Paddy Power or December Gold Cup
6/7 came from first three in the betting market
6/7 had winning form at 2m5f or above
Albertas Run – Jonjo O’Neill
11yo bay gelding
Accordion (11.9f) — Holly Grove Lass (Le Moss (12.4f))
Bidding to make it a third successive victory in this race, Albertas Run came into last year’s renewal in abysmal form having been well beaten behind Monet’s Garden at Aintree, before falling at Ascot when beaten in the Amlin Chase and then pulling up in the King George behind Long Run. However he bounced right back to form with battling success to hold Kalahari King all the way up the run-in to retain his crown. Looking through the career of Albertas Run shows a real liking for Cheltenham (11911), with his only defeat over obstacles coming in the Cheltenham Gold Cup when not lasting out the extended three-mile trip. If he is over the injury problem that has kept him off the track since his gritty Old Roan win at Aintree in November you’d have to think he’d go close to retaining his crown again but looks to face his toughest field to date.
Riverside Theatre – Nicky Henderson
8yo bay gelding
King’s Theatre (IRE) – Disallowed (IRE) (Distinctly North (USA))
Arrived at the 2010 Festival as a potential player in the Arkle, but after getting close to being tailed off, stormed home to up the straight to finish fifth. He then disappointed at Punchestown soon after, but was under pressure a long before home, prior to falling five out. Riverside Theatre has looked a vastly improved performer since having the summer off, winning easily on reappearance before a career best performance saw him take second in the King George behind Long Run, who would go on to confirm the level of form when landing the Gold Cup at the 2011 Festival. Nicky Henderson’ gelding duly confirmed the promise of his second placing in the King George when slamming some useful performers in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase on his next start, readily quickening clear when Barry Geraghty asked him to quicken. 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, other than the layoff he has had through injury which has seen his career curtailed since that effort at Ascot.
Noble Prince – Paul Nolan
8yo bay gelding
Montjeu (IRE) (11.7f) — Noble Pearl (GER) (Dashing Blade (9.0f))
There looks to be every chance that last year’s Jewson Novices Chase winner Noble Prince will revert back to this trip after plying his trade over the minimum distance so far this season, taking on the likes of Champion Chase elite Big Zeb twice so far. He has clearly shaped to me like the specialist distance of twenty or so furlongs to be his trip so the decision to continue to run him over shorter is somewhat baffling to my eye. The way he dispatched Wishful Thinking at Cheltenham last season, and the manner in which he had put Realt Dubh to the sword at Punchestown before coming to grief at the second last suggested he was a horse going places and the extra furlong here will be no problems whatsoever. That said at around 6-1 in the market (Antepost joint favourite) he is plenty short enough based on what we have seen (Jewson form hasn’t really worked out) and he isn’t of interest at this stage, despite being a very smart animal.
[frame_right src=”http://www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/21176.jpg” href=”#”]Medermit[/frame_right]
Medermit – Alan King
8yo grey gelding
Medaaly (9.3f) — Miss D´Hermite (FR) (Solicitor (FR) (7.7f))
Although he has yet to register a success at Cheltenham, this likeable grey brings solid Cheltenham form to the table, most recently with an excellent second in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase (Grade 3) over course and distance in December, giving away 12lbs to winner Quantitativeeasing for around 0.75L. Also getting 12lb but suffering a 10.75L beating at the hands of Medermit was Calgary Bay who has since won two big handicaps on the bounce (most recently off a 6lb higher mark) to suggest the form looks strong. I’msingingtheblues beaten 10.25L by Medermit getting 5lb has since gone really close when a head second to Tatenen off the same mark on his next run (who was a further 6.5L back here). Medermit’ course form reads (2337242) with his only below par run coming in the Champion Hurdle behind Binocular. I wouldn’t be so worried about the lack of a course win, as with a better passage through I strongly believe he would have won the Supreme Novices Hurdle and the weight carrying performance last time in a race working out very well stands him in good stead for this, and is overpriced in the current market.
Rubi Light – Robert Hennessy
7yo bay gelding
Network (GER) — Genny Lights (FR) (Lights Out (FR) (8.0f))
Third in this race last year behind Albertas Run after just a handful of chase starts, Rubi Light has improved on his form of last season with a couple of impressive displays so far this year. Starting off when taking Sizing Europe’s measure at Gowran before taking an unlucky last fence fall (remounted to finish third) when the result was pretty much beyond reasonable doubt. He followed up that performance with an attacking display in the John Durkan (Grade 1) at Punchestown to land a decisive success (in a race where we sadly lost Kempes). He didn’t last home at Leopardstown on his latest effort in the Lexus Chase and the drop back to his specialist trip will definitely suit, as will the better ground on offer.
Somersby – Henrietta Knight
8yo bay gelding
Second Empire (IRE) – Back To Roost (IRE) (Presenting (UK))
Consistent horse, only finishing outside the places three times in twenty career starts to date. The gelded son of Second Empire finally got a deserved grade one success when edging out Finians Rainbow in the Victor Chandler Chase at Ascot on his most recent start, and showed the clear benefit for the application of cheek-pieces which seemed to focus his mind on the job at hand. Fifth in the Champion Chase behind Sizing Europe last season his Cheltenham form reads (3235) which includes a third placing in the Supreme Novices, second in the Arkle and fifth in the Champion Chase which represents three solid efforts at three consecutive Festivals. An admirable horse you once again expect him to run a solid race, but I honestly believe he’d be better off in the Champion Chase as opposed to this race and therefore I’m passing him up this time round.
[frame_right src=”http://www.cheltenhamtips.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/great_endeavour-150×150.jpg” href=”#”]Great Endeavour[/frame_right]
Great Endeavour – David Pipe
8yo grey gelding
Great Palm (USA) (12.0f) — Strong Irish (IRE) (Corrouge (USA))
Aside from Medermit, Great Endeavour is another bidding to make it a first win in the race for the ‘greys’ and with his course form he holds an excellent chance (03162F10). Clearly a better chaser than hurdler, if you discount his first two efforts at the track, and then forgive him his fall when racing over further than ideal at last year’s Festival he quickly comes back to (16210). His latest effort you can forgive also as he was still travelling well when making a shuddering mistake at the tenth and was still travelling well when knocked sideways by stable-mate Matuhi when that one made an error three out. That error knocked all the momentum out of Great Endeavour and he was allowed to coast home in his own time, so this run can be written off. He had previously been an emphatic winner of the Paddy Power Gold Cup over this course and distance (beating Quantitativeeasing 7L giving 3lb), and then ran a storming race in the Hennessy travelling up noticeably well before the petrol ran out, and kept on for fourth (beaten 5L). Taking all this into account it is hard to imagine this likeable grey not running a big race at The Festival, he is clearly improving and this can be a welcome winner for David Johnson who as an owner, hasn’t had a Festival winner for a while now (Our Vic in 2008).
Others of note:
Kalahari King looks sure to come straight to The Festival after a layoff forced by injury, and he placed in this race last year. It is difficult to envisage him being able to throw it down with some of these younger improve sorts though, and he isn’t really one for me to be honest. Poquelin has admirable form over this course and distance but just doesn’t seem to do it on Festival week, and he isn’t getting any better either so it is hard to imagine him winning this also. Kauto Stone should improve from the step-up to this sort of trip and looked seriously impressive in Ireland, but you’d expect he’d want plenty of juice in the ground to be competitive and it isn’t likely he’ll get this at Cheltenham based on weather from previous years. Realt Dubh could be another potential threat providing he proves his wellbeing after a long layoff enforced by injury.
Despite the good record that Paul Nicholls has had in this race (majority of horses hitting the places) it is difficult to envisage him having the winner of this with his two entered charges Poquelin and Kauto Stone. Somersby I would prefer to have another crack at the Champion Chase with those same cheek-pieces applied as I’m not thoroughly convinced he stays this longer trip, so on that basis I can’t entertain a bet on him either. Noble Prince although holding solid form is underpriced at the head of the market, and with Riverside Theatre needing to prove his wellbeing after being off with injury since February 2011 – I believe the race revolves around the two horses coming from the handicap route in Medermit and Great Endeavour. In truth it is extremely difficult to split the two as they are both closely matched on form, and although I’m forming a narrow preference for Medermit after that weight carrying performance last time it isn’t with any real conviction and for that reason I have to back them both.