For a race that has had many detractors in it’s fifteen-year history, there can be no doubt anymore as to the merit of the Ryanair as part of the Festival line up- it’s a proper Grade One chase.
Day 3 featured races quick links:
13:20 Marsh Novices Chase
14:30 Ryanair Chase
15:05 Stayers Hurdle
Allaho (Rachael Blackmore/Willie Mullins)
Third in the Albert Bartlett and the RSA on his two previous Festival appearances and had a somewhat slow start to this season, finishing behind in both the John Durkan and the Savills Chase. Produced a career best when winning the Kinloch Brae last time out, asserting from the front as his main rival closed to within striking distance.
Still not particularly sure what sort of horse he is, as he’s not looked the strongest stayer at three miles but has looked vulnerable to quicker horses over shorter.
The way this race will set up should suit him and there remains potential for more to come, but I’m still not fully convinced he’s a bona-fide top-level performer.
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Chris’s Dream (Robbie Power/Henry De Bromhead)
Won the Troytown and the Red Mills last season before being found wanting for stamina and ability in the Gold Cup. Good reappearance when runner-up to The Storyteller in the Down Royal Champion Chase at the beginning of the season, but seemingly outclassed in a stronger edition of the John Durkan next time.
Perhaps slightly overpriced from an each-way perspective at 25-1, as he should be better suited to this than the Gold Cup, but this race is deep and he’ll need a clear career-best to make the first three.
4. Dashel Drasher (Matt Griffiths/Jeremy Scott)
Ultra-likeable eight-year-old who has progressed from good handicapper to Grade 1 winner this season, landing the Ascot Chase to complete a hat-trick of wins this season.
Will give his running, but this requires much more again and that Ascot race was probably his day in the sun.
4. Fakir D’Oudairies (Mark Walsh/Joseph O’Brien)
Runner-up in the Arkle last season and he’s matched that form in open company this year, with a fine second to Chacun Pour Soi in the Dublin Chase.
He’s vastly experience for a six-year-old and hasn’t won a race of this depth yet, but he’s been crying out for this step back up in trip and can’t be underestimated.
5. Fanion D’Estruval (Charlie Deutsch/Venetia Williams)
Made a striking impression on British debut when winning a Newbury novice handicap but has failed to finish closer than fourth on three completed attempts in Graded company so far.
Good second in a handicap here in two-mile handicap of his first start of the season, but is biting off more than he can chew in this.
6. Imperial Aura (David Bass/Kim Bailey)
Looked Graded quality when winning the novice handicap here last season and has proven he’s better than a handicapper by winning a Carlisle Listed event and an Ascot Grade 2 on his first two starts of the year. Unseated early at Kempton last time, and whilst he remains with potential, his price is probably on the skinny side for what he’s achieved
7. Kalashnikov (Jack Quinlan/Amy Murphy)
Runner-up in the Supreme three years, but hasn’t managed to make his mark at the top level in open company. Good efforts over fences this season, finishing runner-up to Mister Fisher in the Peterborough and a creditable third in the Denman. That form would need to be stepped up for him to win this, though, and he’s probably exposed as below Grade 1 level.
8. Melon (Bryan Cooper/Willie Mullins)
Four-time Festival runner-up, including when agonisingly beaten a nose by Samcro in the Marsh last season. Solid efforts this season at the top level when third in both the John Durkan and the Savills Chase and didn’t run as badly as the bare form suggests when last of five in the Irish Gold Cup last time.
He remains 0-18 in Grade 1s, illustrating that his overall level of ability falls fractionally below the top level, but stepping back down in trip is the correct decision and he should go well.
9. Min (Paul Townend/Willie Mullins)
The oldest horse in the field at ten-years-old, but he’s one of the greatest of his generation, with eight Grade 1 wins and further seven top-level placings to his name.Gained a much deserved first Festival success when holding off Saint Calvados to win this last week and, from what we could see through the fog, looked to be in great heart when winning his third consecutive John Durkan on his seasonal reappearance.
Never looked comfortable when pulling up early in the Dublin Chase last time, but he didn’t have a hard time that day and he should be able to bounce back in this. There’s a lot of up and comers in opposition, but Min remains the horse they all have to surpass to win here.
10. Mister Fisher (Nico De Boinville/Nicky Henderson)
Grade 2 winner as a novice over both hurdles and fences, though was unable to make his mark in Grade 1s and was a solid fourth in the Marsh here last season. Produced a career best when beating Kalashnikov in the Peterborough here on his most recent start, but he’s had no excuses when beaten at the top level before and needs to take a leap forward again.
11. Real Steel (Harry Cobden/Paul Nicholls)
Triple Grade 2 winner in Ireland for Willie Mullins last season, and ran a monster race for a long way when sixth in last season’s Gold Cup, just being found wanting for stamina in the closing stages. Ran as if amiss on both occasions since joining Paul Nicholls this year, and whilst the ability is clearly there to be involved at his best, he now has questions to answer.
12. Saint Calvados (Gavin Sheehan/Harry Whittington)
Improved last season and came to within a neck of causing an upset against Min in last year’s renewal. Went well for the majority of his reappearance in the King George, travelling nicely before probably paying the price for his early keenness and fading into fourth. Possibly a blessing in disguise the unseated in the Denman last time out, as he didn’t have a tough race, and he probably rates as the main danger to the selection.
13. Samcro (Jack Kennedy/Denise Foster)
Looked a superstar when bolting up in the Ballymore three years ago, though things didn’t go to plan for him after over hurdles and he failed to win another race. Didn’t build on an impressive chase debut last season until returning from the doldrums to hold off Melon and gain his second Festival win in the Marsh last year.
Nothing positive to say about his efforts this year and physical issues have led to his profile looking increasingly patchy, and though he has bounced back before, he overall profile makes him a very unlikely winner.
14. Tornado Flyer (Danny Mullins/Willie Mullins)
Won a Grade 3 novice chase last season before finishing fifth in the Marsh. Got to within a length of Min in the John Durkan, but his overall form is a notch below what would be required to win this and he’s up against it.