Ryanair Chase Betting Tips & Predictions – Cheltenham, Thursday 14th March 2019

The Stayers’ Hurdle may be the official headline act on Day 3, but for us, what looks to be a high-class renewal of the Ryanair Chase deserves to share top billing this year.

The Irish have taken control of this race in recent times and we suspect we may well be in for more of the same in 2019.

Top Tips

Road To Respect each way @ 9/2

Odds correct at time of writing but may have changed since. Check site for latest prices.

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Race Info

A total of £350,000 is on offer for the contenders tackling the soft ground and 2m 4½f trip of this Grade 1 contest.

GoingDistanceGradePrize MoneyRunnersEW Terms
Soft 2m4½f Grade 1 £350,000 12 Runners 1/4 1-3

Recent Winners

We have had a fairly even spread when it comes to the age of the winners here. Three of the past five to come home in front have been seven years of age, which suggests the younger performers may hold an edge. Alberta’s Run did score as a 10 year old in 2011 though, so perhaps the elder statesmen shouldn’t be wholly dismissed.

The British-based trainers had won the seven editions of this prior to 2016. The Irish have bounced back since then, with superstars Vautour and Un De Sceaux and surprise winner Balko Des Flos taking the past three renewals.

2018 Balko Des Flos 8/1 Henry De Bromhead Davy Russell
2017 Un De Sceaux 7/4 Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2016 Vautour Evs Willie Mullins Ruby Walsh
2015 Uxizandre 16/1 Alan King Tony McCoy
2014 Dynaste 3/1 David Pipe Tom Scudamore

Road To Riches

This has the potential to be another Cheltenham cracker on paper. In this year’s field we have the past two winners of the race, a total of three winners from last year’s Festival and a couple for whom the Gold Cup was once touted as a possible target.

Un To Make It Two

Purely on what we have seen this season the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux fully deserves his place towards the head of the market here. The 2017 winner of this ran a cracker when finding only the imperious Altior too good in the Tingle Creek at Sandown and has been put away since in order to arrive here fresh. In 17 completed starts over fences he has never finished outside of the top two. On the downside, at the age of 11, he would become the oldest winner in the history of the race and could manage only second here last year.

Pad Ready To Launch?

Un De Sceaux is deserted by Ruby Walsh in favour of last season’s Arkle hero, Footpad. Some suggest he was flattered by his 14-length success in that race last year due to the others going too quick up front. The time of the race was good though and he did back it up with a 12-length win in a Grade 1 at Punchestown in his final start of the season.

Those two runs hinted at big things to come this term, which makes his two efforts to date all the more disappointing. A faller on his comeback at Naas, he was then turned over by Simply Ned at Leopardstown last time out. There are few who ready a runner for Cheltenham quite as well as Mullins but this one does need to take a big step back in the tight direction if he is to take this.

Meade Runner Merits Plenty Of Respect

This looks to be a very strong race for the Irish and another raider to make the shortlist is the Noel Meade representative Road To Respect. This one will be having his third run at the Festival having won the Plate in 2017 and finished an admirable fourth in the Gold Cup last season. A tad unlucky in running third to Kemboy on his seasonal return, he then lost out by just a short head to Bellshill last time out. Those two runs emphasise his current wellbeing and whilst the drop back in trip is a question mark, the fact that this seems sure to be run at a true pace should be in his favour.

Final Verdict: Road To Respect each way

If Footpad turns up in the form he was in last season, he may well land this in style. He hasn’t looked anything like the same horse in his two starts so far in the current campaign though, and as such we will take him on.

As much as we like Un Des Sceaux, father time catches up with us all eventually and, having been reeled in by a Gigginstown House Stud runner in the race last year, a similar fate may await, with Road To Respect fancied to run them all down late.

About the Ryanair Chase: Stars Take Flight at The Festival

Ryanair Plane Taking Off

The Stayers’ Hurdle may be the official headline act on Day Three at the Cheltenham Festival, but not far behind it when it comes to top billing on the day is this 17 fence, 2m5f chase affair open to runners aged five and older. One of the newer races at the meeting, this contest was added to the roster as part of the 2005 expansion which saw a fourth day added to the fabulous Festival.

Aiming to provide a top-level target for those runners perhaps not quick enough for the 2m of the Queen Mother Champion Chase but lacking the stamina reserves to see out the 3m2f of the Gold Cup, the race quickly became popular with fans, owners and trainers alike and was granted Grade 1 status ahead of the 2008 renewal.

Known to all and sundry simply as “The Ryanair”, the official title of the race is actually the Festival Trophy. With the Michael O’Leary-owned airline having sponsored all bar the inaugural edition – sponsored by the Daily Telegraph – the name of the company understandably quickly became synonymous with this race.

Ruby A Gem Over The Festival Fences

This may be one of the newer races at the festival, but it hasn’t taken Ruby Walsh long to compile an impressive record in the contest, with four wins up to 2018. Considering Walsh has claimed top jockey honours at the Festival on an incredible 11 occasions, it isn’t too surprising that he has done well here – he does well in just about all of the Festival races.

Ruby Walsh's Ryanair Chase Victories

YearHorseTrainerWinning Distance
2005 Thisthatandtother Paul Nicholls ½ length
2007 Taranis Paul Nicholls Neck
2016 Vautour Willie Mullins 6 lengths
2017 Un De Sceaux Willie Mullins 1 ½ lengths

The greatest of all time, Tony McCoy, had led the way with three wins up to 2015 – recording his final Cheltenham Festival success with a bold front running ride aboard the Alan King-trained Uxizandre in this race in 2015 – but back to back wins for Walsh in 2016 and 2017 aboard the Willie Mullins duo Vautour and Un De Sceaux saw the Irishman hit the front.

Balko Bags Prize For Sponsors

Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary
World Travel & Tourism Council, flickr

Irish businessman Michael O’Leary must be one of National Hunt racing’s biggest supporters; not only through his firm Ryanair’s sponsorship of this race and other top events, but also through his association with the owning giant that is Gigginstown House Stud. With so many classy chasers coming under his umbrella, O’Leary no doubt viewed winning the race he sponsors as a very real possibility. For a while however it looked as though it might never happen.

Second in 2007 with Mossbank, First Lieutenant then filled the same position in 2013, before Valseur Lido and Road To Riches filled second and third behind a majestic Vautour in 2016. Second yet again in 2017 with Sub Lieutenant, O’Leary must have been wondering if he would ever break his duck.

With defending champion Un De Sceaux and the legendary Cue Card amongst the opposition headed into the 2018 edition, the Gigginstown-owned and Henry de Bromhead-trained Balko Des Flos looked to be up against it on the formbook. Nobody told the horse that though as the mount of Davy Russell travelled like a dream throughout, kicking clear in the straight to carry the famous maroon silks with the white star to victory at long last. The horse hasn’t been as good either before or since, but on that day he was untouchable.

Stepping Stone To Gold?

White Stars on Black Background

It may not place quite the emphasis on stamina as the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself, but run over the same track and fences, this race would seem a logical rung on the ladder towards a tilt at the big one in future years. As of 2018 only one horse has managed to back up a win in this event with a triumph in the biggest one of them all. The Nigel Twiston Davies-trained Imperial Commander toughed it out up the run-in to score in this race in 2009 before upsetting both Kauto Star and Denman to land the 2010 Gold Cup by an impressive seven lengths.

The winner of this race who most fans would have liked to see join Imperial Commander as a Gold Cup champ is the 2013 hero, Cue Card. The Colin Tizzard-trained superstar did have a crack at the main event in both 2016 and 2017 but agonisingly fell at the third last on both occasions. That 2016 effort in particular looks a case of what might have been, with the horse seemingly travelling well within himself at the time.

Alberta At The Double

As of 2018, five trainers and two jockeys had claimed this prize on more than one occasion. Just the one horse has managed that feat though. Trained by Jonjo O’Neill and ridden by Tony McCoy, Alberta’s Run matched the determination of his rider to cause a minor upset when scoring at 14/1 in 2010, before putting in another display of true grit to successfully defend his crown under the McCoy drive in 2011.

Five Way Battle For Top Trainer Honours

There are a few races at the Cheltenham Festival where a certain trainer proves a cut above the rest – Nicky Henderson in the juvenile hurdles springs to mind – but this isn’t one of them. In the opening 14 editions of the race no fewer than five separate trainers recorded a double in the race.

Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Jonjo O’Neill and David Pipe have been the men to follow for the home team, whilst it should come as no surprise that it is Willie Mullins who became the first Irish-based handler to record a dual success in the event. Powerful yards one and all, and surely only a matter of time before at least one of those names adds to their tally.

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