The Grade 1 Ryanair Steeple Chase is one of the highlights of the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, known as St Patrick’s Thursday, a day which also features the Stayers’ Hurdle and the JLT Novices’ Chase.
First run in 2005, it has been won by high-class horses such as Imperial Commander, Cue Card, Vautour and Un De Sceaux, whilst Albertas Run is currently the only horse to have won the race twice.
The race takes place on Cheltenham’s New Course over 2 miles and 5 furlongs and 17 fences.
Winners have been aged 6 to 10, with 7-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds and 10-year-old all supplying 3 of the 13 winners
Winners have been rated 152 to 176
Vautour was the shortest-priced winner at evens
Uxizandre was the longest-priced winner at 16/1
Ruby Walsh has ridden 4 winners
Nicky Henderson, Jonjo O’Neill, Paul Nicholls, David Pipe and Willie Mullins have all trained 2 winners
His second-placed finishes in last season’s Champion Chase and this season’s Tingle Creek suggest he’s not quite top-class over two-miles on good ground, and connections have already suggested that a step up in trip is on the cards this season. He’s already proved he stays 2½ miles, when winning at Aintree last season, and this would look his best chance of success at the festival. However, connections might be tempted by the Champion Chase if the ground came up soft.
Un De Sceaux
Proved his well-being with a comfortable success on his seasonal debut over 2-miles on heavy ground, but is another who finds everything happening too quickly over 2-miles on good ground at the highest-level. Therefore, it was no surprise that he seemed to relish the step up to this trip when winning last season’s renewal of this race, though worth noting that Fox Norton beat the runner-up by much further at Aintree.
His only defeat in 6 runs for Willie Mullins came at the hands of Altior, and he’s looked a natural over fences. Interesting that his seasonal debut was over 2½ miles, suggesting that connections may have this race in mind for him, but there’s a possibility that he could run in the Champion Chase if stablemate Douvan didn’t make it to that race.
A third possibility for Willie Mullins, and this one won the JLT Novices Chase on the card last season, as well as winning the Neptune Investment Hurdle at the previous season’s Festival. Would look an obvious target on that evidence, but the fact he holds entries in several of the big 3-miles races suggests the Cheltenham Gold Cup may be his big target.
Will only be 7 come March, but has already run at 3 Cheltenham Festivals, finishing second in the Triumph Hurdle, fifth in a Champion Hurdle, and second to Yorkhill in last season’s JLT Novice Chase. Looked slightly unlucky in that race when hitting the second-last, whilst he looked an improved animal when beating seasoned handicappers by 8-lengths on his seasonal reappearance at Ascot; beating Frodon by slightly further than King George favourite Might Bite had done previously.
What a race this would be if all the main contenders turn up, however there’s a chance that the likes of Fox Norton, Min and Yorkhill will run in either the Champion Chase or the Gold Cup. Therefore, there’s an even bigger chance that both Un De Sceaux and Top Notch will be much shorter prices come the big day and, with both looking to have decent chances, they both look worth adding to our ante-post portfolio.
2018 Ryanair Chase Ante-Post Tips
Un De Sceaux @ 6/1 Totesport
Top Notch @ 10/1 Ladbrokes