Ryanair Chase Analysis
14:50 at Cheltenham Racecourse on 18th March
Albertas Run is the only horse to win back-to-back editions of the Ryanair Chase in the race’s 17-year history. That suggests odds of 10/1 about Min being the second may not be over generous. However, Min is similar to Albertas Run in that he has plenty of Cheltenham experience and would also be completing the double at the age of 10. Trainer Willie Mullins also has a great recent record in the race having won three of the last five renewals.
Eight of the last 10 winners of the Ryanair Chase were also running in the race for the first time. Albertas Run had already won the race once, while Frodon had finished fifth in the previous year’s race prior to his success as a 7-year-old.
Saint Calvados and A Plus Trad finished second and third in the 2020 Ryanair Chase, and the latter will also be seven in 2021. Frodon was also fourth in the 2020 renewal, but probably needs a few of the more fancied horses to under-perform or not turn up if he’s to regain his title.
Three winners of the Ryanair Chase were stepping-up in distance after running over two-miles at the previous Cheltenham Festival. Riverside Theatre and Cue Card had, respectively, finished fifth and second in the Arkle Chase, while Un Des Sceaux had finished second in the Champion Chase after also winning the Arkle two years earlier.
Fakir D’oudairies finished second in this year’s Arkle, and the 5-year-old looks the type that could easily relish a step-up in trip as he gets older. His owner JP McManus has also won the race before with Uxizandre. One slight negative is that Fakir D’oudairies will only be six come the 2021 Ryanair Chase, and only one 6-year-old has won the race before.
JP McManus also has another interesting potential candidate in Defi Du Seuil, who was a big flop in this year’s Champion Chase. Connections may decide to go down the Champion route once more, but the Phillip Hobbs-trained horse has won two Grade 1s over a distance just short of that of the Ryanair Chase. The 20/1 is unlikely to last long if he starts the 2020/21 season as well as last year.
The most interesting stat is that four of the last seven winners of the Ryanair Chase have run in the previous season’s Marsh Novices’ Chase, and this 2½ mile race is an obvious stepping-stone. But only Vautour was successful in the Marsh before returning to win the Ryanair, while both Uxizandre and Dynaste finished second, and Balko Des Flos fell.
The 2020 Marsh Novices’ Chase was, arguably, the classiest renewal of the race ever. Potential superstar Samcro was well-backed before winning, and he’s now two from two at the Cheltenham Festival over trips at around 2½ miles.
Runner-up Melon was running at his fourth Cheltenham Festival and, though he’s yet to get his head in front, he’s also finished runner-up in a Supreme Novice Hurdle and two Champion Hurdles. He seemed to relish the step-up in distance for the first time and at the line he was rallying in a way that suggested he would have been back in front of Samcro over the slightly longer distance of the Ryanair.
The form of the 2020 Marsh Novices’ Chase also has a solid look to it, with former Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen back in third, solid English yardstick Mister Fisher back in fourth, the well-backed Tornado Flyer in fifth, and dual Cheltenham winner Midnight Shadow in sixth.
One horse that fell in the Marsh was Itchy Feet, and it’s worth remembering he was sent-off as the 7/2 second-favourite on the day. Despite that, some bookies are offering 40/1 about Itchy Feet winning the 2021 Ryanair Chase.
The final horse worth mentioning as a possible winner of the 2021 Ryanair Chase at this stage is Alloha, who has run over 3-miles at the last two Cheltenham Festivals but could emulate Albertas Run by dropping back in trip to contest this race. Currently six, he could also easily find plenty more improvement in the hands of Willie Mullins, though he hasn’t been missed in the market.