The Road to Cheltenham

 
Bill Esdaile
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THE Ryanair Chase is always one of the most competitive races of the entire Cheltenham Festival and this year’s renewal looks no different.

The main problem is trying to work out who runs. Flemenstar would go off favourite if lining up, but a win in next weekend’s Irish Hennessy will surely result in connections opting for the Gold Cup.

Cue Card is solid enough at 6/1 with Star Sports, although his price is unlikely to shorten much between now and the Festival. Sizing Europe and Finians Rainbow would both be respected on decent ground, but I don’t think Champion Court or Menorah are quite good enough for this.

Having already tipped up First Lieutenant for the Gold Cup, I clearly can’t recommend backing him in this, but if Mouse Morris was to nominate the Ryanair I’d have to get involved.

That said, the trainer does have another contender who I think is worth supporting at this stage. CHINA ROCK has been called a few names in the past, but he won the Grade One Punchestown Gold Cup in April and he has contested the last two Cheltenham Gold Cups. I don’t think he stays well enough to win the blue riband event, yet this intermediate trip promises to suit. He loves good ground and there is plenty of juice in his 20/1 price with Star Sports.

■ Pointers…
CHINA ROCK 20/1 e/w Ryanair Chase
(Cheltenham Festival)