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advising selections on which to wager, since March 2010.

Friday, 4 January 2019

My thoughts on the Ryanair Chase

Over the next couple of months, I'm taking a back-step from the day-to-day search for winners, and focusing in-depth on the Cheltenham Festival in March.  This is something that I have considered doing for the past couple of years but never come around to getting started until the eve of the Festival itself. 
I've been looking for a way of invigorating my love of horseracing and stimulating the brain-cells. So I will be looking at all of the major Championship races 1-by-1 researching the form of the likely runners, establishing the targets of the trainers, eliminating the "false" favourites that the bookies put up to whittle away at you cash, and (hopefully) finding some nuggets of information that allow readers to "bet like a professional!"
As with all the races at the Cheltenham Festival, prior to unilateral adoption of "non-runner, no bet" by the bookies, the key to antepost wagers is to try and work out which horses will line-up at the start, and which horses have other targets. There are some bookies going "non-runner, no bet" (Bet365, Paddy Power, and Skybet) but the odds they are offering are not the best.

The Ryanair Chase is one of the Festival races that I try and crack every year, but I’ve only once been successful and that was with Cue Card back in 2013.
This year, the race looks wide open and I think I’ve found some cracking value.
The market is currently headed by Road To Respect (OR169) at 5/1. I’ve already researched this horse with regards the Gold Cup (see yesterday's blog), and I struggle to see how Road To Respect has a rating of OR169 given how comprehensively he was beaten last March in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (won by Native River) and he was well beaten again, the following month, in the Punchestown Gold Cup.  That latter race was won by Bellshill, who previously had come only 5th of 8 finishers in a very scrappy running of the Irish Grand National; and based on those results I’d rate Road To Respect closer to 160 than 170. Admittedly, he won the Grade 3 handicap chase over this 2m5f trip at the 2017 Festival (Baron Alco was 2nd) and that was fair form, but I really can’t see him winning the Grade 1 Ryanair Chase.
Next in the betting is Min @ 7/1, but this horse is almost certain to go for the QM Champion Chase rather than the Ryanair.  Sure, he won a Grade 1 Chase over 2m4f in December but I’m not sure about that form as 3 of his 4 rivals were totally outclassed, and the other one (last year’s Ryanair Chase winner Balko Des Flos) is another horse more highly rated (in my opinion) than his form deserves.
Balko Des Flos may have exposed the stamina limitations of Un De Sceaux when winning the Ryanair last March, but he’s not really a Grade 1 chaser as he himself has been so readily beaten since then. Remember, both Min and Balko De Flos were beaten – outstayed – by Politologue at Aintree last April over 2m4f.
Since then, Politologue has given Charbel 6lb and a beating at Ascot in November, and then only lacked stamina to be involved in the finish of the King George VI Chase over 3-mile at Kempton on Boxing Day.  The Ryanair Chase looks ready-made for Politolgue, who was 4th over an inadequate 2-mile behind Altior in the QM Champion Chase at last year’s Festival.  
In my opinion, POLITOLOGUE and Waiting Patiently are the only horse’s in this race that look to be capable of a 170+ performance over this 2m5f trip (Altior will almost certainly go for the QMCC again).
For some reason, Thistlecrack is next in the betting, but I will be mighty surprised if he goes for this instead of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
On the 1st November, I would have considered Footpad as my idea of the Ryanair winner, but being beaten by Simply Ned (who is 5-years older than Footpad) on 27th December suggests that perhaps the younger horse isn’t as good over as we thought. He clearly isn’t a potential QMCC winner and it is possible that Mullins still feels irked at taking the Ryanair with Vautour in 2016 when his stablemate Djakadam wasn't good enough to win the Gold Cup.  I’ve a sneaky feeling we will see Footpad line-up in the Gold Cup and not the Ryanair Chase.
As per my Gold Cup assessment, Monalee is a model of consistency and I reckon the handicapper has this horse just about spot on at OR159; but he is a tad one-paced and may come to the fore when tried over marathon trips and 2m5f may expose his limitations.
Connections of Waiting Patiently are apparently intent on sending their horse for the Gold Cup, but whether he will take that race or this are up in the air.  He is a quality racehorse over this trip, but I’d like to see him race again. That could be the Grade 1 Ascot Chase over 2m5f which he won last February, or he may chance a match with Native River over the 3-miles of the "Denman" at Newbury.
Frodon was the first horse beaten (after Cue Card pulled-up injured) in the Ryanair Chase last year, and while he is exceptional over this course and trip, his form usually tails-off in the Spring.  
Al Boum Photo who fell in the RSA Chase when looking like he was going to finish 2nd, subsequently won over 2m4f at Fairyhouse. He has also run his seasonal debut in the past fortnight, winning over 2m5f at Tramore in Ireland beating stable companions Total Recall in 2nd and Invitation Only into 3rd. While the performance looked impressive, as an indication of his Festival potential it was inconclusive: Why?  For Total Recall (who won the Ladbrokes Trophy Chase at Newbury on 02Dec2017) the 2m4f trip was wholly inadequate, and Invitation Only was clearly in need of the race. Unless he improves about 10lb, Al Boum Photo just does not look good enough to win.

In my opinion, the likely starters for the Ryanair Chase are:
Road to Respect (OR169) - my rating 161
Balko Des Flos (OR164) - my rating 163
Footpad (OR166) – my rating 164 (Mullins will likely decide closer to the Festival)
Frodon (OR169) – my rating 167
Politologue (OR168) – my rating 167(P)
Al Boum Photo (OR159) – my rating 163
Top Notch (OR162) – my rating 161
Charbel (OR162) – my rating 160
God’s Own (OR159) – my rating 160

Dependent on his next run Waiting Patiently (OR170) – my rating 168 – will go for either the Gold Cup or the Ryanair.

I’ve taken the current 12/1 (William Hill) about POLITOLOGUE for this race, and there is 10/1 available with Ladbrokes and BetVictor. If he goes for the Grade 1 Ascot Chase over 2m5f run in February and wins that (as I expect he will) then he will start the fav for the Ryanair Chase.

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