The Ryanair Chase has developed into one of the feature races of the whole Festival with some star names amongst the honours list. Won last year by Dynaste who sadly misses the race this time round through injury, the competitive nature of this event is once again apparent and we should be in for an exciting renewal with some top horses lining up.
A few things to consider;
- 9 of the last 10 winners of the Ryanair Chase posted an RPR of 158+ either once or twice in their last two completed chase starts.
- 9 of the last 10 winners had previously won at Cheltenham.
- 10 of the last 10 winners were officially rated 152 or above.
- 9 of the last 10 winners had won over 2M5F or further.
Sholokhov (IRE) (12.0f) — Depeche Toi (GER) (Konigsstuhl (GER) (10.5f))
Notes: Currently heads the market based on a string of impressive performances over in Ireland this winter. He has looked much more the finished this season after promising to fulfil his potential for the last couple of seasons. Better ground will certainly suit him although he has been exclusively kept to smaller fields throughout his chasing career – which in reality is down to other trainers opting to look elsewhere rather than take him on. This is certainly his trip, and with conditions to suit him he looks solid enough at the head of affairs.
King´s Theatre (IRE) (11.4f) — Wicked Crack (IRE) (King´s Ride (14.0f))
Notes: Produced the best RPR this race has seen in the last 10 years with a dazzling performance to win this race in 2013, and has been exclusively campaigned over further since he demolished his opposition in the Ryanair. He hasn’t been in the same form since returning from a stress fracture of the pelvis sustained in the 2013 King George, although it can be argued he’ll be much more effective back in trip on better ground and thus cannot be written off just yet.
Goldneyev (USA) (9.6f) — Frija Eria (FR) (Kadalko (FR ))
Notes: Looked one of the more exciting prospects with a view to the Champion Chase this season, and after initial promise finishing runner-up to God’s Own in the Haldon Gold Cup, appeared to lose his way suffering two defeats in a row when expected to perform much better. I had initially written him off as not being good enough but he looks to have been transformed with a step-up in distance, and after a dominant display at Kempton he followed that with an even better display to land the Ascot Chase at Ascot beating Ma Filleule by 3.25 lengths and a repeat of that performance gives him great claims of winning this valuable prize.
Turgeon (USA) (10.4f) — Kadaina (FR) (Kadalko (FR ))
Notes: An exciting mare who demolished her opposition with a jaw-dropping display of jumping to take the Topham Chase off a mark of 150 last spring. She had previously finished runner-up to Holywell at The Festival last year, which isn’t a bad effort now give the exploits of that rival since (ended up top staying novice that season). She was disappointing on her return at Down Royal on ground certainly softer than ideal, and didn’t look to get home at Aintree when beaten by Sam Winner in December. A pleasing second to an impressive Balder Succes at Ascot in Valentine’s Day will put her spot on for this, and the prospect of better ground is also another positive.
Gold Well — Gilt Ridden (IRE) (Heron Island (IRE) (12.0f))
Notes: Holds strong form over this course and very nearly made it two Paddy Power Gold Cup wins in a row when narrowly worn down by Caid Du Berlais as the post loomed back in November. He travelled well throughout the King George but failed to see out the extra distance at a time where the yard were very much under a cloud. He looks a much more complete horse than last season and heads into this race with bold claims, especially if repeating his Paddy Power second off a mark of 156.
TAQUIN DU SEUIL
Voix Du Nord (FR) — Sweet Laly (FR) (Marchand De Sable (USA) (7.5f))
Notes: A once high-class hurdler, he made the transition to fences last season culminating in an impressive battling victory to land the JLT Novices’ Chase at this meeting twelve months ago. He was as big as a boat for his return at Market Rasen despite his trainer reportedly having him pretty straight, and ran much better when second to Menorah in the Charlie Hall Chase. He was found to have a blood disorder when pulled-up in the Betfair Chase at Haydock in November, so we can forgive him that poor effort. His comeback from a brief layoff came in the Denman Chase at Newbury at the start of this month, and although he made a brief effort to move into third he never really looked happy during the race, and although you’d expect him to improve from that effort he’ll need to with a view to take this. He goes well at Cheltenham on the little form we have, and some headgear (if applied) could sharpen him up.
Morozov (USA) — Dinny Kenn (IRE) (Phardante (FR ) (12.7f))
Notes: Hasn’t been over raced for a horse of his years and has shown signs of hitting peak form this year with a brace of excellent efforts over fences for Nicky Richards this term. The form of his first outing this season reads well, attempting to give away 6lb and a beating to Many Clouds (has since won Hennessy and Argento Chase) at Carlisle in November. He followed that up with a solid second to Wishful Thinking in the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon, with two jumps to his left on a right-handed track in the home straight costing him valuable ground in the finish. He appears to have been underestimated by the market based on these two efforts, and as such is available at 25/1.
Ballynagour follows a similar pattern into The Festival which worked so well last year when bolting up in the Byrne Group Plate off a mark of 140. He has been campaigned over different trips since a rock solid third in the Melling Chase, and although with little success he comes into this race fresh and that is when he is most dangerous – respected.
Wishful Thinking looks like being the number one runner for Philip Hobbs in this contest with Menorah likely to head straight to Aintree, and a repeat of his earlier season form gives him big claims in what is an open renewal.
Menorah currently looks massively overpriced based on his performances this season (currently 40/1 Betway), but that can be attributed to the likelihood he is going to skip the festival in favour of Aintree a month later. Should he line up in this contest his chances would far outperform those current odds so I’ll be keeping an eye on the market with this one – I’d advise you to do the same.
Wonderful Charm looks like being Paul Nicholls sole representative in this race (could still run Caid Du Berlais but unlikely). Has proven to be a very decent chaser over fences although arguably hasn’t gone on from the initial promise shown in his novice season.
Hidden Cyclone ran a massive race in this contest 12 months ago, although recent comments suggest he is heading towards the Champion Chase despite holding an entry in this race.
Champagne Fever is another who holds an entry in this race but looks likely to head down the Champion Chase route which would mean Mullins would rely on Ballycasey as his sole representative in this race. He has disappointed this season and was expected to run much better than he actually did when third in the Ascot Chase this month, and although the return to better ground is likely to bring improvement he has questions to answer and is unlikely to have the answers against this level of competition.
Uxizandre could head down this route after disappointing connections since winning the Shloer Chase in November. He has been kept back at two miles since disappointing on his return in the Old Roan Chase at Aintree in October. Different headgear could bring out improvement in him back on better ground but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
Module was third in last season’s Champion Chase but appears to have lost his way under Tom George and although likely to head towards this contest in two weeks it is hard to imagine him getting involved based on his performances this season.
One of the better races of the meeting in terms of competition, and it in theory will take a performance in the region of the mid 160’s to land this prize.
Don Cossack has looked rock solid in his preparation over in Ireland this year, and promises to produce yet again with conditions certain to suit him. The value has long gone against this big strapping gelding but if you hold vouchers at larger prices than he currently is then I tip my hat to you.
Balder Succes has appeared much improve since going up in trip, and on recent form it gives him every chance of taking the prize. The concern is on three visits to this track he has yet to complete (FUF), although his jumping has been much improved this term than earlier on in his career – he looks about the right price.
Ma Filleule is very much a spring horse and will have the benefit of getting 7lb from all her rivals in way of her mares’ allowance. She will have improved off her recent second to Balder Succes and the prospect of better ground further enhances her claims – she jumps extremely well and will be thereabouts although the current prices offer no value as to her perceived chances.
Johns Spirit’s Cheltenham form will stand him in good stead for this and looks about the right price around the 9/1 mark, out of the two Jonjo O’Neill horses (Taquin Du Seuil the other) he’d be the one I’d want to be on, with ground and conditions certain to suit him.
Cue Card would take plenty of stopping in this if back to his best, but has yet to show he is anything near the level of form that saw him take this in 2013. The return to this trip and better ground could be the tonic needed for the gelded son of King’s Theatre but with questions to answer he looks short enough at 6/1 for me.
Wishful Thinking has to be respected on his early season form, although Menorah would be of serious interest if thrown into this race by Philip Hobbs, the 40/1 with Betway would be a massive price on his form shown since last spring and he has to enter calculations.
Ballynagour heads here a fresh horse and that is when he is most dangerous. His dominant performance when taking the Byrne Group Plate lives fresh in the memory and the way the race will be run is also likely to suit him. He is almost certain to shorten from his current 25/1 price tag, but might not have the class of a couple of these.
One which I think the market have underestimated is the Nicky Richards trained EDUARD, who has promised to land a race of this stature for a while now and has to be respected on his form shown so far this season. He has been sparingly campaigned this year, starting off with an excellent second (attempting to give 6lb) to Many Clouds going down by 1.25L, he travelled so well throughout that contest but his jumping was a little rusty after a layoff and only gave best to Many Clouds on the run-in.
His next outing came in the Peterborough Chase when looking like the winner when coming to challenge Wishful Thinking at the second last, but jumped to his left and again at the last costing him vital ground. He momentarily dropped back into third but rallied again towards the line to claim the runner-up spot behind a horse at the peak of his powers, and the yard able to win with the stable cat at the time.
Given the exploits of Many Clouds since his comeback at Carlisle, winning the Hennessy Gold Cup off 151, and then the Argento Chase (Grade 2) at Cheltenham at the end of January, earning him a rating of 165 heading into the Cheltenham Gold Cup (for which he is a general 8/1 chance). Had Eduard had more races this campaign then he wouldn’t be anywhere near his current 25/1 price, with Nicky Richards opting to skip the Ascot Chase 10 days ago in favour of going straight to The Festival with a fresh horse.
You’d have to imagine Eduard would be capable of performing to a level in the mid-160’s based on his recent two performances, and the prospect of being able to tuck into a larger field with a true pace to take aim at further enhances his claims for me – he is underestimated and can be a welcomed winner for the north at the Cheltenham Festival.