Road to Cheltenham

Bill Esdaile
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THE purpose of this column is to find horses that are going to turn up at the Festival at a shorter price and the Ryanair Chase has an attractive look to it from a betting perspective.

Don Cossack is the 4/1 favourite, but I’m keen to take him on. He’s four from four this season, and I have no doubt that he is a very good horse. But all his best form is in small fields in Ireland and he fell in the RSA Chase last year.

It’s probably a coincidence that Irish horses are 0 from 10 in this race, but there are enough doubts to leave him alone anyway.

Interestingly, the last seven winners of this contest all ran in the King George that season and all were beaten at Kempton. That stat will please supporters of Cue Card, Johns Spirit and Menorah, but none make much appeal at the prices.

The one who I think is overpriced is David Pipe’s 33/1 shot Ballynagour, who was a hugely impressive win of the Byrne Group Plate at the Festival last year. He had Johns Spirit 15½ lengths back in fourth that day, yet Jonjo O’Neill’s runner is just 10/1.

Ballynagour is fragile, and has had bleeding issues in the past, but on his day he is very good indeed. He scored by 19 lengths at Warwick two years ago on his UK debut and then produced that demolition job at last year’s Festival.

He only has one entry this year and this race has surely been the plan for the whole season. There are obvious risks involved, but his price makes up for that and I can see him going off around 16/1 if he lines up.

■ Pointers…
BALLYNAGOUR (33/1) Ryanair Chase