Ryanair Chase ante-post preview: Take the price on Min

A Plus Tard is the current ante-post favourite.
A Plus Tard is the current ante-post favourite.

Following the release of entries for this year’s Ryanair Chase, Joe Tuffin has taken a look at the line-up and picked out his best ante-post bet at this stage…

The entries for the middle-distance feature race at the Cheltenham Festival, the Ryanair Chase, were revealed last week, and of the 44 entries we were left with a perfect 50/50 split of British to Irish challengers.

Naturally, the headline act would be the current champion, Frodon, who was a game one and a quarter length winner last year, and returned to form recently with a win in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton. A repeat of last year’s performance, when battling back to deny Aso in a ding-dong battle, would give him obvious claims of defending his crown, though judging by the entries he will likely face a tougher task this time around.

The eight-year-old is the third favourite at the time of writing at 8/1, and the two that sit above him in the betting could take some beating should they line up here in March. A Plus Tard won the Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase at last season's Festival, and he currently tops the market having taken the notable scalp of the highly-regarded Chacun Pour Soi during the Christmas period.

Second preference in the market is Min, and he could well be the horse to side with come March. The Rich Ricci-owned, Willie Mullins-trained nine-year-old is somewhat of an unsung hero for that notorious combination, and perhaps hasn’t quite got the credit he’s deserved during his career. Indeed, he’s a five-time Grade 1 winner, and even though following in the footsteps of the likes of Annie Power, Vautor, Faugheen, Vroum Vroum Mag, Douvan and Djakadam is something of a daunting proposition, Min has been a regular at the top level in those famous green and pink silks. 

He’s currently 6/1 for the two and a half mile contest in March, and he’s unlikely to trade at a bigger price than that between now and then, owing to an impressive seasonal debut over the same distance in a red-hot renewal of the Grade 1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown last month. He will almost certainly head to the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown at the beginning of February next, and although that’s over two miles and a furlong, there’s still every chance he will head here after that. Should he do so, he would boast the strongest form in the field, and considering that the Ryanair is suited to a versatile horse with speed and stamina in abundance - Min is just that, 6/1 looks appealing.

Next we find Defi Du Seuil at 8/1, although some bookmakers have him as a 4/1 favourite. The disparity in the market is due to his entry in the Champion Chase, with last year's winner of the JLT over two and a half miles (now known as the Marsh) looking as though he possesses more than enough speed to tackle the Queen Mother, which he showcased by winning the Tingle Creek. Should connections decide to go for the Ryanair then there is very little that can be said to put you off siding with him. He clearly has the stamina and can deal with the undulations of Prestbury Park having won there five times, and the only concern would be the presence of Min who may just have his number. At this stage, I’d only back him at that price if you can find No Runner No Bet (NRNB).

The Willie Mullins-trained Footpad comes next in the market, and he’s been rather inconsistent since dominating the novice two-miling division in 2017/18. He had a crack at three-miles in the King George last month and finished a good third, but he clearly didn’t stay the trip, so a return to middle distance will suit. It’s hard to place him, on paper his form isn’t that of a Grade 1 Cheltenham winner, but we know what he can do and we know that a bit of Mullins magic can work wonders. As such, it’s hard to rule him out, but there are safer bets out there that's for sure.

Next in the betting is Cyrname, and at first glance seeing the highest rated horse in training over his ideal trip at a price of 12/1 looks an appealing prospect. However, the well-documented concern of his inability to go left-handed, especially around a track as challenging as Cheltenham, should probably scare punters away. In fact, it’s likely that we won’t see him at the Festival at all as connections eye up the Ascot Chase in mid February, a race he won by 17 lengths last year. Should he turn up he’d be best watched, as it’s tricky to get onside with him unless he’s at a flat, fair, right handed track such as Ascot, for all his talent is obvious.

Riders Onthe Storm is an interesting runner for the Nigel Twiston-Davies team at 12/1, having been 50/1 in November and not even considered in the betting prior to that. Having finished his last season with two letters in his form line, he’s shown huge improvement to win two hot handicap contests, the latter by seven lengths. He probably has a lot to find on the main market principals yet, but his inclusion and short price certainly raises eyebrows.

The other entries are as follows: Road To Respect, Un De Sceaux, Janika, Waiting Patiently (Out for season) Politologue, Real Steel, Duc De Genievres, Cilaos Emery, Fox Norton, Kalashnikov, Saint Calvados, Delta Work, Top Notch, Aso, Balko Des Flos, Hardline, Cadmium, Bristol De Mai, Lalor, Chris’ Dream.



Ryanair Chase, Thursday 12th March 2020 - back Min at 6/1


14:50 Cheltenham
Min silk


A host of the entries for the Ryanair Chase have multiple engagements at the time of writing, including Min, though there's plenty of reasons to think he will head here. He's been the bridesmaid to Altior for a long time, but his best form has arguably come at two and a half miles, something he showed when demolishing the field in the Melling Chase at Aintree last April. He's since won on reappearance over the same trip in the John Durkan Memorial Chase, and, as a five-time Grade 1 winner, he'd take all the beating if lining up - and looks a generous price to do so.

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