Cheltenham Festival The Ryanair Chase Preview
The Ryanair Chase is one of the key races at the eagerly anticipated Cheltenham Festival and it always attracts a superstar field of leading jumpers. It takes place on day three of the March Festival, which is St Patrick’s Day, making Ryanair an apt sponsor.
The Guinness will be flowing and the green hats will be bobbing as the Irish lead the party, and the action on the course never fails to live up to the occasion. We have seen some famous winners of this race over the years and a strong field is sure to gather this time around.
Who won the Ryanair Chase in 2017?
The Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh dream team earned their second consecutive Ryanair Chase victory when Un De Sceaux produced a brilliant display to beat Sub Lieutenant by a length and a half in 2017.
Mullins was rewarded for stepping his famous nine-year-old up in trip and he relished the 2 miles and 5 furlongs distance. Un De Sceaux, who won the Arkle at Cheltenham in 2015, delivered several perfect jumps to open up a commanding lead and Sub Lieutenant could not reel him in on the home straight.
The previous year Mullins and Walsh had gained victory as Vautour ran away with it.
Have any horses won the Ryanair Chase two years running?
The Ryanair Chase began in 2005, when the Cheltenham Festival increased from three days to four. In that time, only one horse – Jonjo O’Neill’s masterful Albertas Run – has won it twice in a row.
He won it under champion jockey Tony McCoy in 2010, successfully defended it in 2011, but lost out to Nicky Henderson’s Riverside Theatre when bidding for a hat-trick in 2012.
What are the odds on Un de Sceaux winning his second consecutive Ryanair Chase?
Right now Un de Sceaux is the 3/1 ante post favourite to win a second consecutive Ryanair Chase. He is entered in for the Queen Mother Champion Chase, so it will be interesting to see which one Mullins opts for. He enjoyed the trip here last year, so you would expect him to return and defend his Ryanair Chase crown.
Which top trainers have horses scheduled to run in the Ryanair Chase?
Right now 44 horses have been optioned for the Ryanair Chase, but only a fraction of that number will actually contest it. In 2015 there were 15 runners and last year only saw eight.
Right now Mullins is keeping his options open and has put forward 14 runners, including Un De Sceaux, Yorkhill, Min and Douvan.
Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls, Colin Tizzard, Gordon Elliott, Dan Skelton, Henry de Bromhead and more top trainers are all also currently in the mix.
Who is favourite to win the Ryanair Chase?
Right now the favourite is Un De Sceaux at 3/1, followed by Fox Norton and Top Notch at 5/1 and then Min, Waiting Patiently and Yorkhill are all 8/1. The likes of Djakadam, Douvan and Road to Respect at all 10/1, while Sub Lieutenant is 20/1.
All of these horses have been put forward for other big races at the Cheltenham Festival, typically either the Champion Hurdle or the Queen Mother Champion Chase – the feature races on days one and two respectively – so it remains to be seen who will run in which races.
Final declarations for the Cheltenham Festival have gone from 24 hours to 48 hours this year, but in reality we will often know earlier than that as trainers typically indicate which race they are opting to send their best runners to.
Who are the horses to watch?
Un De Sceaux will undoubtedly gain the most attention and the 10-year-old is in excellent form. He finished second behind Fox Norton in the Champion Chase at Punchestown last April, but returned in emphatic form for the 2017/18 season, winning both starts so far. In January he won the Grade 1 Clarence House Chase and looks to be running and jumping really well.
Fox Norton is also one to watch, and it will be really interesting to see who Mullins eventually decides on for this race as he has a strong hand.
Who looks the best long shot?
Sub Lieutenant has placed in several competitive races since finishing second here last year and looks an interesting long shot at 20/1 as he has proved how much he loves the course and relishes the trip.