The Ryanair Chase is a race that has grown in prestige and stature since being added to the Cheltenham Festival schedule in 2005. At first, there was skepticism about this event.
Would running in the Festival Trophy, the name that the Ryanair Chase is registered under, ever be racehorse trainers and owners’ first-choice? There is greater history attached to the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup after all.
A middle-distance event between those has always made sense. After 15 years of the Ryanair Chase, we are now at the stage where it can hold its own compared to more storied Festival races.
That is certainly the impression you get based on early closing entries this year. There are a number of Cheltenham day 3 betting tips and predictions on offer for the Ryanair Chase, and that suggests we have a hugely competitive race to look forward to on Thursday, 18 March.
It has the makings of a show-stealer, the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow on St Patrick’s Thursday. Speaking of the luck of the Irish, horses trained in the Emerald Isle have won four of the last five renewals of the Ryanair Chase.
Min is the defending champ after gaining a deserved Cheltenham success in 2020 and many years of trying. While he looked as good as ever emerging from the Punchestown mist to win a third John Durkan in December, he was pulled-up when dropping down in trip for the Dublin Chase.
As he has got older, two-mile races have suited Min less and less. The Ryanair Chase is his trip and, as the excellent Albertas Run showed, older horses are capable of not only winning the race, but retaining it.
There are plenty of dangers for Min on the comeback trail, including fellow inmates of the Willie Mullins yard. Stable jockey Paul Townend faces a tough choice between riding him, Thurles Grade 2 winner Allaho and perennial Cheltenham Festival runner-up Melon.
It has become clear that the latter pair don’t really stay three miles, so Mullins has a strong Ryanair Chase with that trio in his bid for a fourth win in the race in six years. Min isn’t the only horse heading into this looking to bounce back either.
Imperial Aura wins the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase for Kim Bailey 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/nkeA0Tzikq— Racing Post (@RacingPost) March 10, 2020
Imperial Aura made rapid progress throughout 2020, winning the Listed handicap chase for novices over fences at last year’s Festival. He then added successes away from Cheltenham at Carlisle and in Grade 2 company around Ascot for local trainer Kim Bailey.
Only an uncharacteristic fall in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton last time out keeps Imperial Aura from being favourite for the Ryanair Chase. Last year’s runner-up Saint Calvados also has claims after not quite getting three miles in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
Fakir D’Oudairies has been running over all different distances for Joseph O’Brien and owner JP McManus this season. Again, the Ryanair Chase trip looks ideal for yet another Irish raider.
There is even a scenario where past multiple Festival winners such as Samcro and Altior end up running in this race. Mister Fisher, the Peterborough Chase victor which was run at Cheltenham this year, would have a chance if ground came up good.
That’s without even mentioning three possible Paul Nicholls runners in Cyrname, Master Tommytucker and Real Steel. The Ryanair Chase really could be a cracker this year.
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