THERE have only been seven runnings of the Ryanair Chase and sponsor Michael O’Leary won’t be happy that no horse from his native Ireland has won this yet. They arguably have their strongest hand this time with last year’s Jewson winner NOBLE PRINCE and the third home in this race 12 months ago, Rubi Light.
We have already backed Noble Prince at 7/1 ante-post and he is now 6/1 with Coral. Paul Nolan’s stable are running well and his Jewson win a year ago was impressive. He’s been a tad disappointing so far this campaign, but this 2m5f trip on good ground is exactly what he wants.
Make no mistake about it, though, this is one hot renewal of the Ryanair and I honestly think if you ran the race seven times you’d get seven different results.
Riverside Theatre is the 9/2 favourite with Coral and he won well at Ascot last time. However, I’ve never been convinced that Cheltenham really suits him and all seven winners of this race had previously won at the track. Nicky Henderson has some big chances this week, but I’d be happy to lay the seven-year-old on Betfair, as well as opposing him on the win index with Sporting Index.
Albertas Run has won the last two runnings and also landed the RSA Chase back in 2008. He comes alive at this course and at this time of year, while conditions should suit perfectly. That said, he’s a year older and this looks probably the best Ryanair ever run so he’s going to have to put in a career best performance.
Rubi Light is a big danger and he’s probably the best two-and-a-half mile chaser in Ireland, but he does seem to need cut in the ground and he isn’t going to get it. He’s out to nearly 10/1 on Betfair and although I think he’s a top class horse, tomorrow’s conditions aren’t going to play to his strengths.
Henrietta Knight has always held Somersby in the highest regard and I’ve also always been a big fan of the horse. He’s often played the bridesmaid, but this is his trip and he won the Grade One Victor Chandler Chase on his last start. The problem with him is the price; if he was 10/1 I’d be backing him, but he’s no bigger than 7/1 and that is just too short in such a hot contest.
Medermit goes well at the track and ran a really strong race behind Quantitativeeasing at this track in December, although I’m not sure he’s quite good enough, while the decent record of Paddy Power Gold Cup winners in this race means Great Endeavour can’t be overlooked.
However, the one horse who has the potential to be much better than his current odds is CAPTAIN CHRIS and he should be backed each-way at a general 14/1. Philip Hobbs’ inmate landed the Arkle last year and although he performed poorly at the course in January, something was clearly amiss. He was being prepared for a Gold Cup bid and as long as he doesn’t jump too far out to his right he has every chance of finishing in the first three.
There has only been one winning favourite of the Byrne Group Plate since 1981, so David Pipe’s SALUT FLO has it all to do on the trends. I just have a feeling he might be able to put an end to that hoodoo, as he could be unbelievably well-handicapped. The Pipes always have one massive plot at this meeting and it was Junior in the Kim Muir last year who demolished his rivals at a skinny 100/30.
I remember thinking to myself why on earth had I not backed it when he rounded the home turn with no dangers in sight. Now, I’m not saying Salut Flo will win this by as big a margin, but a mark of 137 could seriously underestimate his chances. The Pipes think this is their best chance of the week and I will be taking some of the 4/1 generally available.
We are already in a strong position in this race as we have CRACK AWAY JACK in the locker at 12/1 and he is now no bigger than 7/1 with Coral. This is his first season with Paul Nicholls and there is no doubt that he’s another who is potentially very leniently treated. A winner of the Fred Winter at the Festival in 2008 when trained by Emma Lavelle, he has always looked as though he’d make up into a decent chaser and he holds strong claims.
Ferdy Murphy’s Divers won the novices’ handicap chase on the first day of last year’s meeting and he should go close with AP McCoy taking the ride. He will love the ground and ran a stormer in the Paddy Power Gold Cup earlier this season. My worry is that Graham Lee gets on with him very well and he’s a horse that needs to be nurtured into the race. If pushed, I’d probably just side with Crack Away Jack over Divers in a match bet with Sporting Index.
Last year’s winner Holmwood Legend is respected for a yard that is already on the scoreboard at this meeting thanks to Hunt Ball, but he is now 15lb higher. Venetia Williams is always respected in this race and the progressive Niceonefrankie wouldn’t be without a chance off just 10st2lb.
CAPTAIN CHRIS e/w 2.40pm Cheltenham
SALUT FLO 4.00pm Cheltenham
NOBLE PRINCE 7/1 e/w 2.40pm Cheltenham
CRACK AWAY JACK 12/1 e/w 4.00pm Cheltenham