Cheltenham Festival Tips: My Banker, Lay and value play in the Ryanair Chase

Cheltenham Festival Tips: Mister Fisher has a great chance of claiming Ryanair Chase glory.
Cheltenham Festival Tips: Mister Fisher has a great chance of claiming Ryanair Chase glory.

Alex Stearn picks out his Cheltenham Festival banker, lay and has a value play in the Ryanair Chase, as he provides the fourth instalment of our Cheltenham Festival tips series...

Banker

Even by Willie Mullins’ imperious standards, his haul at the end of the Dublin Racing Festival was nothing short of remarkable, recording nine winners over the space of the two days. Within those, MONKFISH was arguably the most impressive of them all and his performance cemented his position as banker of the week in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase

He has course form to his name from his hurdling exploits last year when winning the Albert Bartlett at last year’s festival, and this big stamp of a horse has taken his form to an even higher level over the larger obstacles. He’s currently boasting an unbeaten record over fences, winning a beginners event before going straight back into Grade 1 company. His old foe from the Albert Bartlett, Latest Exhibition, has been his closest competitor in the two Grade 1 chases he has contested in Ireland, but Monkfish has never looked in any danger of getting beat. 

The Flogas Novice Grade 1 was his most dominant performance to date which saw him tank through the race and jump from fence to fence with pin-point accuracy. He didn’t really have to be shaken up and asked to give everything in the tank to give an 11-length beating to Latest Exhibition, with high class performers Andy Dufresne and Asterion Forlonge also toiling in his wake. The home challenge in this sphere is very weak, with Monkfish’s owner-mate Royale Pagaille leading that challenge, but it is likely they’ll be kept apart with the latter Cheltenham Gold Cup bound. It is a very rare situation where you can say a horse has strolled to Grade 1 victory in preparation for Cheltenham, but you can with Monkfish, and that should have put him spot on to take his unbeaten record over fences to four.

Brown Advisory Novices' Chase
Monkfish silk

Monkfish

won

Lay

Zanahiyr currently boasts the accolade of heading the ante-post market for the Triumph Hurdle, as he should, off the back a three-and-three-quarter-length victory in the Grade 2 Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown over the festive period. However, since that performance, two other contenders have thrust themselves into the Triumph picture that are more unexposed and look to have strong claims of turning over the Irish charge. 

Tritonic was a talking horse before the National Hunt season started when his name was mentioned that he’d be switching to hurdles from the flat, and his performances have been standout. His maiden victory was only by a length from Casa Loupi at Ascot but he did what was needed for his first start over obstacles. He started the Adonis a short-priced favourite and he slammed his old rival from Ascot by 10-lengths and was skipping further and further clear with every stride after jumping the last. The ability to quicken from his days on the flat, where he was rated 99, is an extremely useful asset and he looks to have a better turn of foot than ZANAHIYR, while the hill should hold no fears either as he was also a strong stayer on the flat. He has an outstanding chance of becoming the first Triumph Hurdle winner for owners The McNeill Family and Ian Dale, something that Max McNeill has found elusive so far.

French Aseel is a more unexposed contender than Tritonic, having only had the one start over timber, but that was a standout performance at Leopardstown over the festive period winning by a huge 22-length margin. That prompted Mrs J Donnelly to get her chequebook out and privately purchase him from the care of Ellmarie Holden. He has since moved to Closutton and is now in the hands of Willie Mullins but hasn’t been seen in public since his hurdling debut. The lack of experience could be viewed as a slight concern against a thrice-raced rival, but Mullins’ is never one to rush four-year-old novice hurdlers and race them unnecessarily, and possibly telling is that he did win the race last year with Burning Victory, who had only run once over obstacles in her life before taking her chance. The sky really is the limit for French Aseel (Cliché, I know) and he is a live player in the Triumph as well.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Big-Priced Selection

The feature of Day 3 of Cheltenham, the Ryanair Chase, has a wide open feel to it this year and MISTER FISHER looks to offer a good bit of value in a congested market. He is a little ground dependant as his headline pieces of form have come on a quicker surface, namely when winning a Grade 2 Novice Chase at Doncaster last year. Connections of Nicky Henderson’s inmate will be hopeful that the ground will come up in his favour and looking towards the long-range forecast and with it being one of the first chases run on the New Course and giving him fresh ground to run on, they have plenty to be positive about. 

The New Course holds no fears for Mister Fisher either, with him having two bits of winning C&D form on his CV. The first was in a novice chase back in 2019 but more recently, he took advantage of the Peterborough Chase having to be rescheduled and moved to Cheltenham from a flooded Huntingdon, which saw him put up a very useful performance to beat Grade 1 winner in Kalashnikov on that occasion, on ground that was softer than his ideal conditions as well. 

Given Altior and Chacun Pour Soi are pretty much confirmed to head to the Queen Mother Champion Chase, he looks like being the joint fourth highest that will line up in the Ryanair on official ratings, behind Min, Saint Calvados and Imperial Aura. Those three all have questions marks over their recent form in that all of them failed to complete on their latest start, which is far from ideal preparation for a race like this. If the heavy rain stays away from Prestbury Park between now and race day and the going report contains the word ‘good’ then the current odds on offer looks more than generous.

Ryanair Chase
Mister Fisher silk

Mister Fisher

Pulled Up
Cheltenham Festival Races
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