Nicky Henderson’s Riverside Theatre (pictured) landed last year’s renewal of the Festival Trophy – better known as the Ryanair Chase – and the nine year old is currently a best price of 8/1 (9.00) with William Hill to repeat the feat at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival. But can he do it?
Although the Ryanair Chase is only eight years old, there is still plenty of information to go on from a trends point of view. We’ve taken a look over the past eight renewals of the race and picked out the important trends, which can help us to thin out the 2013 field and eventually pick a winner.
- 7 of the last 8 Ryanair Chase winners had won at Cheltenham
- 6 of the last 8 winners had won a Graded race at Cheltenham
Riverside Theatre was the first horse in the short history of the Ryanair Chase to win without having any prior Cheltenham form. This is quite a strong trend as half of the horses to line up in those eight years had course form and the other half didn’t. As the course is so famously testing, it’s worth paying serious attention to.
- All of the last 8 Ryanair Chase winners were officially rated 152 or better
- 5 of the 6 winners since the race became a Grade 1 had already won a Grade 1 before their Festival success
The Ryanair Chase used to be a Grade 2, but since it was promoted to Grade 1 status, five of the six horses to win had turned up at the Festival with at least one Grade 1 victory already under their belt. Every horse to win the race possessed an official handicap mark of at least 152.
- 7 of the last 8 Ryanair Chase winners had won at 2m 5f or more
The one exception to this trend was the very first running of the Festival Trophy. As time has passed, it’s become increasingly apparent that stayers are better placed to win this particular Cheltenham Festival race. Imperial Commander won both this race and the Gold Cup, while Albertas Run, who won the Ryanair twice, had previously won the RSA Chase (3m 1/2f). Any horse without a victory over at least 2m 5f is a definite “no thanks”.
- 8 of the last 8 Ryanair Chase winners had contested between 2 and 4 races prior to the Festival
As with any race at the Cheltenham Festival, it’s important to pick a horse that is race sharp, but not fatigued.
- 0 of the 23 Irish trained runners have won the Ryanair Chase
One of the more interesting Ryanair Chase trends shows that Irish raiders have had no joy at all in the race.
Based on the above trends, the three horses most likely to win the 2013 Ryanair Chase are Grands Crus, Cue Card and Menorah. Of those three, it’s tough to call a winner.
Grands Crus ticks the boxes in terms of class and staying power, but he’s not won a race since the end of 2011 and has been a constant disappointment for some time, with excuses ranging from the ground, through lost shoes and right up to physical problems (he had a wind operation in the latter part of 2012).
There have also been recent hints that he could go back over hurdles, with Big Buck’s leaving a huge hole in the World Hurdle market. There are far too many doubts about David Pipe’s grey for me to get involved, even at a massive 25/1 (26.00) with Stan James . I have no idea why the firm are so much bigger than their rivals, by the way, but if you want to back Grands Crus, do so with these guys – the next best price is 16/1 (17.00)!
As for the other two, it’s a horribly tough call. My initial reaction was to plump for Menorah simply because of the price – the eight year old is currently available to back at 12/1 (13.00) with William Hill – but he was well beaten by a dazzling Cue Card performance in the Haldon Gold Cup and I think he’s more ground dependent than that horse. I’m not sure that those odds represent any value at all.
But on the flip side, Cue Card is a tough choice too. Connections still don’t know whether or not he’ll run in the Ryanair Chase rather than the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which really muddies the water.
Trainer Colin Tizzard said before the Betfair Ascot Chase, “Our view is if he’s going to run in the Ryanair he needs to nearly win this”. The horse went on to win well enough and jockey Joe Tizzard said that he had “two or three more gears left” at the end; that’s a good sign, right? Well, the same jockey was responsible for the horse’s earlier entry in the Haldon, having been a firm believer that the seven year old should only be aimed at shorter trips.
In conclusion, I think that Cue Card is marginally preferred, but there’s no way I can back the horse antepost. I would recommend waiting until the day of the Ryanair Chase before betting (or at least until connections publicly state a preference). At the current best price of 4/1 (5.00) with Paddy Power, there’s not a huge amount to be lost in waiting until a little nearer the time.
The Ryanair Chase
Thursday 14th March 2013, 14:40
Cue Card @ 4/1 (5.00) with Paddy Power
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