By Tom Lee

Ryanair Chase Tips: Aura to strike gold for Bailey

By Tom Lee
Ryanair Chase Tips: Imperial Aura to land his second Cheltenham Festival success.
Ryanair Chase Tips: Imperial Aura to land his second Cheltenham Festival success.

Tom Lee gives his Ryanair Chase tip for a race that looks one of the showpiece events of the entire Cheltenham Festival with a competitive field going to post...

Tom Lee's Ryanair Chase Tip

Imperial Aura (e.w) at 7/1 with Betfair

Fast forward to race three on day three and the Ryanair Chase (14:30) has rapidly become one of my favourite races of the entire meeting. 

Some argue it dilutes the quality of the speedy types in the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the elite stayers in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but I would suggest it provides a perfect niche for those who thrive at the intermediate extended two-and-a-half mile journey to display their class. 

Don't forget, the recent roll of honour includes heavyweight heroes such as Cue Card, Vautour, Un De Sceaux and Frodon.

Who will be joining them? 

A look at the key contenders and a case for why the prize may be staying local in 2021:

As ever, heaving under the weight of an embarrassment of riches, Willie Mullins looks set to saddle the front two in the market.

Last year's winner Min is clearly entitled to enormous respect, but at 10 years of age is in the veteran bracket now (only one winning 10yo in the past 12 years) and arrives here off the back of a stinker when pulled up in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown early last month.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Three years his junior, no less a judge than Ruby Walsh gave a positive shout for his stablemate Allaho at a recent Cheltenham Festival preview event.

Once-raced in France when with Guy Cherel, this lad has not only been placed at the last two Festivals (third in the Albert Bartlett, third in the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase when sent off favourite), but also comes here in from having landed a Grade 2 at Thurles in January.

In-between times though, his jumping let him down in the John Durkan at Leopardstown, before he could manage only fourth in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown at Christmas time. 

That means he's 0-5 in Grade 1 company, though we do know he enjoys the undulations of Cheltenham. 

The Mullins battalion is likely to be bolstered by another quality performer in 166-rated Melon, a horse who famously struggles to seal the deal, winning just once from seven chase starts.

Joining them on the ferry from Ireland will be Joseph O'Brien's Fakir D'Oudairies, a horse I loved when watching him live at Fairyhouse in December 2019, powering home in the Drinmore Novice Chase. 

A course winner who has been fourth in a Supreme and second in an Arkle, this lad has more than a touch of class. Sunday night's rain will have been welcome as it's the softer the ground the better for this lad.

So if that's the might of the Irish challenge, what about something closer to home?

Enjoying an excellent season numerically and operating at a 20% strike-rate, renaissance man Kim Bailey trains in Andoversford, just six miles from Prestbury Park. 

First Flow's Victory in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot handed him his first Grade 1 triumph in more than a quarter of a century, and his upbeat campaign could be just about to improve further still with a huge run from one of his other stable stars, Imperial Aura

Four from seven over fences and a winner at this meeting in 2020 when taking the Novices' Handicap Chase, there's loads to like. 

His overall course form is encouraging (figures of 2,2,1), he's had an excellent season with two successes despite a mishap when blundering at Kempton last time out, and with a light profile (only 12 lifetime starts) still has more to offer.

The stats are friendly too, telling us:

  • The front three in the market produced 14 of the last 16 winners
  • A previous Cheltenham win certainly helps - 13 of the last 16 met that trend
  • Eight of the last 16 winners were in their second season over fences
  • Since the race became a Grade 1 some 13 years ago we know 10 winners won or placed at a previous Cheltenham Festival

In summary, against a wall of Irish hopes, it'll be an each way selection and Imperial Aura to land the Ryanair. 

Thu 14:30 - Ryanair Chase
Imperial Aura silk

Imperial Aura (EW)

Pulled Up
Cheltenham Gold Cup Runners
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