We know an Irish horse will win the Ryanair Chase, but the question for this betting tips column is which one?
Trainer Willie Mullins already had an incredibly strong hand in Footpad, Min and Un De Sceaux, then Noel Meade announced he would switch Road To Respect to the Ryanair Chase from the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
That has shaken up the Ryanair Chase betting, the top five in the odds right now hailing from Ireland. Remarkably, it took 11 attempts for Irish trainers to find a winner of the Ryanair Chase despite it’s prominent Irish sponsor, but since that victory by Vautour in 2016, the race has been dominated by Irish-trained horses.
It is hard to see the trophy not making its way back to Ireland in 2019.
The Ryanair Chase is a Grade 1 run over 2m4f that on the New Course at Cheltenham for established horses in the chasing sphere. With a mammoth £196,945 to the winner, and firmly established as one of the key races on Thursday, the third day of the Festival, it’s proved to provide the acid test for a perfect mix of speed, stamina and fencing ability for all concerned.
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With a strong lean to Irish-trained horses lately, it can potentially pay to ignore the British contingent for this year’s Ryanair Chase. However, trainer Willie Mullins will not decide until close to race day which of his likely contenders, Min, Un De Sceaux or Footpad will run here, which does make certain assessments of the Ryanair Chase betting a tough ask at the time of writing.
Trainer Paul Nicholls managed to land the Ryanair Chase twice in it’s first three runnings and, should he divert the mightily tough Frodon to the contest, then all is not lost in the search for a home soil winner.
But with Gold Cup aspirations still possible, it could well be left to stablemate Politologue, or Top Notch, trained by Nicky Henderson, to challenge what looks an immense Irish battalion of Ryanair Chase horses.
Irish trainers Henry De Bromhead and Noel Meade also have high hopes of landing the race this year and perhaps suspect stayer Monalee can land this intermediate trip battle, or Road To Respect will provide the answer.
Be careful with your bets until the final line-up is known, but with Non Runner No Bet now in the punters favour across most, if not all, of the operators there is some value to be had in the current Ryanair Chase betting.
"We’ve been lucky enough that horses have often found their form coming in to Cheltenham, and I’m working to get Footpad to that pitch if I can. He’s not one of the horses I’ve been too worried about this winter, because he can go on good ground.”
"Min can go Champion Chase or Ryanair, and I’ll leave that decision until later. It depends on the ground, what Ruby Walsh wants to ride, what turns up - a number of things.”
Un De Sceaux, this hasn’t been his year with the ground not being as heavy as he wants, and probably needs as he gets older. But he still has the same enthusiasm as he always has. He just seems to be coming right at the right time. At the moment, I would imagine he will go for the Ryanair Chase, but he is in the Champion Chase, and that could change."
"If the Ryanair Chase is very, very hot and if the Gold Cup cut up a little bit and we thought he could run well, we could go in that. With any of these horses, if you’ve got options, you wait till the last minute."
"That is the way we are thinking at the moment, to run in the Ryanair. We feel he didn’t quite get home in the Gold Cup last year.”
"I don't know yet whether we tackle the Gold Cup or the Ryanair - and I'd say it's 50-50 at the moment. He's good, not a bother on him, and he's in great form."
Whatever trainer Willie Mullins decides to run in the Ryanair Chase, Min or Footpad, will likely go off a short-priced favourite, but backers should be wary of wading in especially if Footpad is his main contender. He was a serious novice last season, but once tasked with open company this term things haven’t gone to plan.
Min would be a stand-out in the field but is likely to once again tackle Altior in the Champion Chase,therefore Un De Sceaux would appeal as the best of the Mullins options should that be the case.
The Cheltenham stalwart would need plenty of rain and with some, but maybe not enough, forecast to fall between now and then his current odds appeal far more than shorter odds available for Footpad.
This might just be the perfect spot for Henry De Bromhead’s charge to win at the Cheltenham Festival, given what appears to be a stamina limitation shown when running over further.
Connections are still considering a tilt at the Gold Cup, but if choosing the Ryanair then the eight-year-old has the perfect profile win, and give Ireland a fourth Ryanair Chase win in a row.
Jumping issues seem to have been resolved, judged on a big run behind Kemboy in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown and then with a facile win over Anibale Fly at Gowran in February.
The late addition of Road To Respect to the field makes it a tougher proposition perhaps but with conditions very much expected to be in his favour the 9/2 available makes significant appeal.
Trainer Paul Nicholls has done wonders with stable star Frodon, who would have a realistic charge at the Gold Cup based on his dazzling display over course and distance at the Cheltenham January meeting.
Frodon beat Elegant Escape then and proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the stamina question was no longer an issue, but with the Gold Cup shaping up to be a very hot contest, connections might still head for the Ryanair and a lower grade of opposition.
Having built up a fruitful association with jockey Bryony Frost there will be plenty of faithful supporters that will expect Frodon to go atleast a few places better than when fifth of six in last year's race, won by Balko Des Flos who could also line up again, despite a disappointing season this term.
Trainer Noel Meade’s decision send Road To Respect to the Ryanair has seen the Cheltenham Festival winner surge up the Ryanair Chase betting. After a respectable run in last year’s Gold Cup, it’s easy to make a case for him over short this year, and with sterling efforts behind Kemboy and Bellshill, he does set a high standard for others to match.
A proven Grade 1 horse with conditions likely to suit, it might be the perfect move late in the day that adds another Cheltenham win to his trainers’ previous successes at the greatest week of jumps racing!
A word of caution perhaps, it is mighty difficult for horses to return from Gold Cup battles to win again at the Festival, and that would be one reason to take him albeit he has credentials to win a Ryanair Chase.
2. Road To Respect
3. Un De Sceaux
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