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Ryanair Chase preview

We've survived to day three of the Festival, that's got to be a winner surely? A mixed bag for punters and bookies alike so far. A couple of winners yesterday pulled me back to almost square, but annoying close to big collects. Mind you, I also had Might Bite, so it works both ways!

Thursday is traditionally the stretch day, the extra day they threw in a bit over a decade ago which seems a little weaker than others. One of the features is the oft-maligned Ryanair Chase, partly for being a mid-distance race which dilutes the traditional championship races, and for being sponsored by the Marmite airline, Ryanair.

Taking another swing at a feature race preview is Cian Ryan, @cianryan92.

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Ryanair Chase
Grade 1, £250,000, about 2m5f New Course
Cheltenham Thursday 1450 local, 0150 AEDT


The Ryanair Chase gets written off by many racing fans as it doesn’t tend to attract the same quality of horse as the Gold Cup. This year’s renewal is no exception with not many superstars in the field.

There is one potential superstar in the field in Un De Sceaux. Willie Mullins has had a terrible week so far but I’m hoping he can turn things around with this horse. Despite being branded as a “tearaway” by some early in his career, the horse has matured into a consistent grade 1 performer recently. His form is absolutely rock solid, winning an Arkle, Tingle Creek and Clarence House Chase. His second in the 2016 Champion Chase has been franked by Special Tiara going on to win this year’s renewal. The horse has an abundance of good Cheltenham Festival form. Cheltenham form has been a profitable angle for the 2017 festival so far. Many experts have written off the horse as they believe he won’t stay 2m5f but I believe he has been settling better in his races. His performance in the Clarence House Chase when beating Uxizandre by five lengths has been his most professional to date. He has also won twice over 2m4f at Auteuil which further strengthens the case that he’ll stay. The one negative for the horse will be the quicker ground. It is not enough of a negative to put me off as he put up a massive performance against Sprinter Sacre on good ground last year.

Another horse with previous festival form is Uxizandre. He won this race in 2015 for AP McCoy with a fantastic front running performance. He returned behind Un De Sceaux after a massive layoff of almost two years. He has five lengths to find with Un De Sceaux, some will argue he will improve for the run but this is dangerous to assume as the horse could also “bounce”. The price disparity between the two is not large enough to take the risk he will turn around the form.

It is surprising to see that connections have left Empire of Dirt in the race. Gordon Elliott revealed at a Betfair preview night that the horse would represent his best chance in the Gold Cup if he were to run. I assumed the horse would switch targets after Don Poli was injured, but the fact he remains in the Ryanair suggests connections feel he can run a massive race. Empire of Dirt has taken the step up to graded level in his stride, putting in a solid performance when finishing second in the Irish Gold Cup. He has graduated to graded level having put up impressive performances in a handicap at the 2016 festival and in the Troytown.

Josses Hill has improved his jumping this season and has won two decent chases over 2m4f before running well in the King George (seven lengths, fifth of five). He isn’t a no-hoper by any means but his form doesn’t come close to Un De Sceaux. I can’t imagine it was an easy decision for Bryan Cooper not to take the ride on Sub Lieutenant. Like Empire of Dirt, he also has solid form behind Sizing John who subsequently won the Irish Gold Cup and Djakadam who is fancied for the Gold Cup. He has an each way chance but may fall short at this level.

Vaniteuxwas a good novice chaser last season, unseating in the Arkle two out when a length and a half behind Douvan. His form has taken a dip this year and I don’t believe he is Grade 1 quality. Alary has come with a big reputation from France but he has shown nothing in his first two starts for Colin Tizzard. Aso won’t enjoy the quicker ground and has plenty to find to take this.

Summary

Un De Sceaux should outclass the opposition, he is available at 11/4 which represents great value for such a classy and consistent horse. There is also the possibility he may be under bet due to the lack of Willie Mullins winners. Empire of Dirt is a big danger but his price is far too short.

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