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Ryanair Chase preview

Festival Thursday - always the day which annoys the traditionalists. Does it dilute the quality of the meeting? You can certainly argue that case with the Gold Cup favourite changing target in favour to this race, not to mention the budget rather than blue-chip nature of this sponsor!

To serve it up to those making the decisions with little regard for the punting public, it's over to regular blog contributor Jon da Silva, @creamontop.

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Ryanair Chase
Grade 1, £300,000, almost 2m5f New Course
1450 local


Vautour owner Rich Ricci may be a genius as he just leaves it to Willie and Ruby and lets them set their priorities much as he and Bob Diamond claimed to run a bank - shocked, shocked to hear of wrong doing they were. Whereas say Gigginstown and Wylie and Potts may insist Willie do what they say. The most credible reason for Vautour's switch seems with Wylie insisting Felix Yonger run in the Queen Mother Ruby did not have a ride in this and lo. This sounds a bit like a butterfly flapping its wings and Leicester City winning the English Premier League.

The main downside to Ricci's supine behaviour is that Willie and Ruby view a winner as a winner at Cheltenham. For Ricci it should be like New Zealand Rugby 7s winning the Plate consolation to take the Ryanair with Vautour.

Vautour is apparently 90% fit to which the cynic in me says why is he 8/11 on the exchanges? That is clearly nonsense. Annie Power had not worked the house down and drifted. Clearly the stoolies at Willie's missed those bad workouts.

My main issue is the next two in the market are not laid out for this and their trainers surely aimed them at Gold Cup too. Valseur Lido has improved every step up in trip and his third in the JLT if you take Vautour out is mostly form that especially at 2.5 miles has been smashed. Valseur Lido and Road To Riches also had a hard bottoming race last time but it was 40 days ago.

If there is a 2.5 mile specialist it is Al Ferof who towers over the rest but even fresh on good ground was put to the sword by Don Cossack at Aintree and has been beaten in this spot by lessers. The record times today probably mean he is For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Annacotty is a nice enough horse off a career high mark who makes no appeal as I think he has won soft handicaps over course and distance. May also like slow ground.

Captain Conan could not win this three years ago when won by a 147 OR, Dynaste as well, and he's been injured since and thrashed on his comeback.

Champagne West seems to be a dodgy jumper and not within 10 pounds of some of these. Best form giving a ton of weight when beaten by Village Vic.

Dynaste's form this year has been poor. Won this 2 years ago but this is a tougher renewal - Al Ferof was behind him when he won BTW.

Gilgamboa is a giant barge of a horse. Pushed home by McCoy to put last year's JLT form in perspective with Valseur Lido and Apache Stronghold (& Smashing) behind over 2.5 miles last Easter. Flopped over course before and a combo of not that good, good ground and track enough to pass.

Josses Hill - Completely out paced over hurdles by a young Vautour and somehow lumbered round to be third in the Arkle. Improved finally for more schooling than a PhD has had at Kempton last time. On an upward curve and with God's Own running creditably this week backing up his recent win without franking it.

Oscar Rock, you can argue been held back for better ground. Equally can argue winter form better than summer ground form. Seemingly exposed handicapper for me.

Smashing Lovely Super. Jim Bowen would have loved him and on an upward curve with three wins. Looking impressive in small fields. Up 12 to 159 so ballpark. Not out of the question but Arkle seventh a red flag. Also beaten by Gilgamboa at Fairyhouse last year although would accept better now.

Taquin Du Seuil back to some form last time. Won a JLT from last year's winner but that is only sort of ballpark on ratings this year.

Vibralto Valtat started season with a win off 150 but seemingly exposed by Group 1 horses since. Soft ground preference may be offset by longer trip but failed to beat Clarcam at Aintree after fourth in Arkle. Never beaten a field of greater than five. One that nags at me but cannot make a case he is a Grade 1 horse.

Village Vic has made all to win two handicaps and advanced to 157. If Claisse has not gone crazy (with the watering) and Vautour is not ridden aggressively a back to lay could pay off. At least like Smashing on an upward curve. Front runner.

Conclusion

Vautour for me shapes as a three-miler but at seven years of age, dropping back here against horses barely within a stone of his King George win, it may not be a problem. Nothing but Ricci's rationalisation says he has a problem here. Nonetheless he is odds-on vs several Grade 1 winners in Taquin de Seuil, Valseur Lido, Road To Riches, Al Ferof and Dynaste. Of the outsiders, I could only seriously consider Josses Hill but the run of the race could help Village Vic and Smashing on the up.

Road to Riches shapes like this cut back be less of an issue than some. Hard run last time but it was only his second of the season. Latest drift just decides me against a lay of Valseur Lido.

Road to Riches w/o Vautour 10/3 or better
Josses Hill EW

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