Ryanair Chase, 2m 5f, Thursday, March 17, 2.50pm
Key Stat: Ten of the 11 winners have won at Cheltenham before
Much maligned in some quarters as it takes legitimate contenders out of the Champion Chase and Cheltenham Gold Cup but it has developed into a cracking race where course form counts for plenty.
Ten of the 11 winners have won at Cheltenham before and since the Ryanair Chase was upgraded to Grade 1 status, seven of the eight winners had already won a similar contest.
Race tactics play their part as 9 of the 11 winners raced close to or on the pace and the best individual guide is the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day.
Six of the last eight Ryanair winners ran at Kempton on Boxing Day. Leading fancy Al Ferof finished third there last December for the third year running. But of those six Ryanair winners to run in the Christmas showpiece – only one finished in the first three before lifting this prize.
The second-best guide has been the Ascot Chase in November with four future Ryanair Chase winners having finished in the first three in that Grade 1 contest. Remarkably Irish-trained horses are 0-32 since the Ryanair was first run in 2005.
It will be interesting to see if Gigginstown House Stud re-route any of their many Gold Cup entries to this race that they effectively sponsor – but have yet to win.
If either Noel Meade’s Road To Riches or Willie Mullins’ Valseur Lido end up here they’ll be close to favouritism.