THERE is a real sense of déjà vu about this year’s Ryanair Chase (2.50pm).
Anyone remember a red-hot Willie Mullins-trained favourite returning to this race having blown his rivals away in the race 12 months earlier?
That horse was Un De Sceaux who bolted up in this race back in 2017 but then had his colours lowered the following year by a fast-improving Gigginstown-owned runner in Balko Des Flos.
The similarities are uncanny as Allaho, many people’s idea of the banker of the week, arrives here with a very similar profile.
Like Un Des Sceaux, he will line up on the back of two effortless wins so far this campaign and will be a heavy odds-on favourite.
I’m going to take a chance on history repeating itself and will side with another horse in those Balko Des Flos colours in the fast-improving CONFLATED.
The eight-year-old bolted up in a warm handicap over this trip at Navan in December and the handicapper’s reaction to that performance forced connections to chance their arm and throw him in at Grade One level.
That run came in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown last month where he was given a peach of a ride by Davy Russell to cause a huge upset with a host of stars, including last season’s Gold Cup winner Minella Indo in behind.
The drop back in trip should be no bother with Allaho likely to once again set a blistering pace.
That will help Conflated settle and he should give the favourite plenty to think about late on.
Of course, an on-song Allaho will take plenty of pegging back, but I’m prepared to take a chance on Conflated to cause another mini shock at 13/2 with William Hill.
The opening Turners Novices’ Chase (1.30pm) has only attracted the four runners which is the smallest field I can ever remember for a Cheltenham Festival race.
That said, the big two have both stood their ground in what promises to arguably the match up of the entire meeting.
Bob Olinger is the narrow favourite at a best-priced evens with Fitzdares, while if you hunt around you can find some 5/4 about Galopin Des Champs.
Both horses are really talented, and the truth is we don’t actually need a bet to enhance what promises to be a cracker.
My feeling is that Bob Olinger is actually favourite on the back of what he achieved over hurdles more than what he has actually done over the larger obstacles to date.
Plenty still have the image of him cantering all over Bravemansgame in last season’s Ballymore Hurdle, but things have been harder work over fences.
I totally get the argument that he may just have more speed than his market rival as he has achieved plenty over two miles, but yesterday’s rain may have swung things back towards Galopin Des Champs.
Of the pair, I just have the overriding feeling that Willie Mullins’ runner may just be the more natural of the pair and, if forced, I’d be in his camp.
Conflated e/w 2.50pm Cheltenham