Cheltmental’s 2023 Ryanair Chase Preview

The Ryanair Chase is the first of the two big races on the day three of the Cheltenham Festival, and with Allaho ruled out there’s a chance for a new horse to add their name to the illustrious list of winners, which includes:

  • Albertas Run
  • Cue Card
  • Un De Sceaux
  • Allaho

Last year saw Allaho run out a 14-length winner to land back-to-back victories, giving trainer Willie Mullins a third successive winner in the race. He sadly misses out this year, but there’s still a strong favourite in the form of Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin, who returned to his best when winning the Ascot Chase last time out.

Racing expert Dave Young (A.K.A. Cheltmental) guides us through the key runners and gives us his advised bet for one of the feature races of the festival.

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Back to his best in the Ascot Chase where he posted an RPR of 178, just 1 point lower than when downing Energumene in last season’s Clarence House. Pulled up after at Cheltenham in the Champion Chase but that was due to a now known issue.

I do understand how some may fear a possible bounce or worry that he might not back it up but I don’t share that concern enough to believe it’s worth trying to take him on. I think he’s probably about the right price on balance. He’ll look massive if he does just run to within half a stone of that last effort as he’ll win as he likes, but there’s not quite enough juice to get stuck in so I’d rather sit back and let him win.


Yet to confirm he really wants this middle trip but has often shaped as though it would suit. Won on seasonal debut in the Clonmel Oil chase which was over 2m4f and came in a bog so you’d be fairly confident stamina won’t be an issue but that did turn into a sprint finish so possibly his speed won him on the day as opposed to his stamina.

Bolted up at Christmas over 2m1f and looked a genuine Champion Chase prospect before flopping at The Dublin Racing Festival over 2m1f again. Even on that impressive Christmas victory he’s not posted a figure that should be able to beat Shishkin, so he’ll need the favourite to underperform even if he puts in his own best effort and he’s well found now.


Does appear to be going for the Gold Cup but while he’s holding an entry I think he’s worth mentioning briefly. I only think he comes here if the favourite is ruled out of Cheltenham, so it’s unlikely, but he wasn’t completely out of it in this race last year where Allaho was an impressive winner.

He might not be the dour stayer that it takes to win a Gold Cup but I do think he possesses enough speed and class to be a major player in here, but again, only if Shishkin doesn’t line up.


14th length second to Allaho in this race 12 months ago and had posted an RPR of 163 prior to that race. Only had the one spin this season but put up an RPR of 164, a number which you’d think he can better.

He is a 9yo now and his jumping isn’t the cleanest so that tempers enthusiasm around him. If he was capable of putting in a clear round you’d think he could run into the 170’s but I think he’ll be taken off his feet in this and in turn make mistakes.


Possibly falls into this middle trip because he’s certainly not quick enough at 2 miles and while he stays 3, he just lacks a bit of class to be competitive in that sphere.

Was a neck 3rd in the 2020 Albert Bartlett which at the time looked decent with the likes of Monkfirsh & Thyme Hill around him then was luckless in the Stayers hurdle the following year suffering lots of interference.

I’d say on balance he runs this track as well as anything so that’s a positive, but he’s only won the one Grade 1 up to now, which came last season in a 3m Novices Chase which lacked depth, so I’m just not sure he’s up to this level, at any distance.


Has run exclusively at 3m this season and won first time beating Kemboy which stands up now. It just doesn’t stand up to the level that would be required to win a Ryanair Chase and his King George run was poor regardless of the trainers rep comments re ground (has won a Chase on Heavy before).

Had he backed up that first run of the season then you’d be hopeful he’s back to somewhere near his best, however his best to date is an RPR of 167 which still falls short in here.


Relatively well fancied to turn over Shishkin at Ascot seeing as he was sent off 3/1 behind him and he was 7 lengths ahead of Fakir D’Oudairies so he’s put in an effort somewhere close to his best there.

Unfortunately that best was a 16 length second to Shishkin and he does lack any real depth or substance to his winning form.


Not sure he’ll run here and they may just wait for Aintree, however I think he should have a pop here because his form this season wouldn’t suggest that it’s worth waiting for Aintree with two sub 160 RPRS in his last three something he hasn’t shown since between December 2019 and November 2020.

I worry he’s not the horse he once was but he’s still a capable horse on his day so I think instead of facing Shishkin in Aintree he should try his hand in here because he does run well at Cheltenham.

He’s only an 8yo so you’d be harsh to say he’s regressive or not capable anymore and I think he’s got a few big days left in him yet, I’m just still not convinced he can eat at the very top table but you should never be scared of one horse.


Has never been round Cheltenham so he may maintain that by opting for Aintree, however I think he’s the type of horse who will be perfectly suited to a Ryanair run on this New Course. Hard to say he lacks speed when he ran such a big race in the 2021 Tingle Creek behind Greaneteen and his Haydock win after a very good effort at Aintree right at the start of this season is form at least as good as the majority of this field.

He is only a 7yo so is likely to be the youngest in the line up and with most of his rivals 9yo’s that potential for improvement could be enough to see him run a very big race. They have minded this horse but haven’t given him easy options. He bled in the King George and while he was beaten at Newbury I think coming back down in trip will suit and I cannot believe he was primed for that. If he runs here I think he has the most scope to improve on his peak numbers and with his last 4 completed starts all in the 160’s, he’s arguably as good as anything else in this race bar the favourite.


HITMAN @ 22/1 Bet365, 20/1 generally

Although I feel Shishkin is the right price now and should take all the beating if turning up in similar form to his Ascot Chase victory, I’m happy to sit back and let him win at the prices. Conflated would be another in with a chance if opting for this race, but the one I’m putting up is one at a bigger price – I’m hoping Hitman opts for this race. I think he’s a huge price considering he has the potential to improve further, and I think this race could be perfect for him – aside from Shishkin he’s more than capable of putting it up to the rest of these.

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