2020 Ryanair Chase Tips – Preview of Cheltenham’s fifth major

Frodon (right) gets back up to win the Ryanair in 2019.

Ryanair Chase Tips

We take a look through the betting for the one of the key Cheltenham Day 3 races, the Ryanair Chase in the latest of our Cheltenham Festival tips articles.

The Ryanair Chase was only introduced to the Cheltenham Festival schedule on day three in 2006. However, in that short space of time, the stature of this two-and-a-half-mile Grade One has grown so much, that the Ryanair is now regarded by many as the fifth Championship race of the Festival. Some truly great horses have claimed Ryanair glory during its brief history, including Albertas Run, Cue Card and Vautour.

I’ve taken a look through the betting for this year’s renewal, highlighting the most likely runners before coming up with my top Cheltenham Ryanair Chase tips.

Ryanair Chase Tips – The Defending Champion

Frodon

Frodon (6/1 Unibet) and Bryony Frost raised the roof at Cheltenham 12 months ago, staying on gamely to beat Aso and Road To Respect to the Ryanair crown. Those efforts seemed to have taken their toll on Paul Nicholls’ charge, as Frodon finished a distant third in both the Old Roan and the Betfair Chase during the first half of the season.

Frodon managed to get back to winning ways in the Silviniaco Conti Chase, beating Keeper Hill and Top Notch from the front. Despite that, the performances he’s put in this term aren’t anywhere near as good as those he produced in the run-up to the Cheltenham Festival 12-months ago. Frodon doesn’t appeal to me sitting on a single-figure price.

Ryanair Chase Tips – The Home Challenge

Defi Du Seuil and Cyrname

Both Defi Du Seuil (10/1 Paddy Power) and Cyrname (12/1 William Hill) still feature prominently in the betting, and both making an appearance wasn’t out of the question at the start of the season.

However, Defi Du Seuil’s dominance over two miles means the 2020 Champion Chase tips will surely be his objective at the Festival. Paul Nicholls’s chaser will attempt to defend his Ascot Chase crown at the end of this month, and I highly doubt whether he will make his Cheltenham Festival debut two-and-a-half weeks after that.

Riders Onthe Storm

Since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies’ stable at the start of the season, Riders Onthe Storm (9/1 Ladbrokes) has been hugely impressive. First, comfortably beating Cepage at Aintree, with the runner-up boosting that form considerably on Trials Day. Riders Onthe Storm then scored in a Graduation Chase on heavy ground at Ascot, receiving an RPR of 169 for his efforts.

I’m sure the Brown Advisory Plate would have been the plan for this improving seven-year-old, but he’s now risen to a mark which means he would have to give weight to the whole field if he took his chance in that handicap. Twiston-Davies may have no choice but to throw his recruit into the Ryanair Chase, and I’m not convinced that he’s good enough to challenge 165-170 horses off level weights.

Politologue

Politologue (20/1 William Hill) hasn’t won since scoring in the 1965 Christy Chase last season. Paul Nicholls’ charge ran a blinder in the Champion Chase last season, finishing just a length behind Altior, but performances this term haven’t been anywhere near that level. If he does run at Cheltenham, a return to the Champion Chase tips looks extremely likely.

A Plus Tard and Rachael Blackmore after their win at Leopardstown.

Ryanair Chase Tips – The Raiding Party

A Plus Tard

A Plus Tard (6/1 William Hill) looked a cut above handicap level when bolting up in the Close Brothers at last year’s meeting. Henry De Bromhead stated the Ryanair Chase was his target at the start of the upcoming campaign. Yet, A Plus Tard has run over two-miles on both his starts, and even beat Champion Chase contender, Chacun Pour Soi to a Grade One at Leopardstown over Christmas. Sadly, drying ground saw De Bromhead pull A Plus Tard out of a mouthwatering clash between those same rivals, and Min in the Dublin Chase, after which De Bromhead stated A Plus Tard would go straight to Cheltenham.

Min

Highest placed of the Irish entrants in the current betting is Min (4/1 Ladbrokes), who produced one of the most outstanding chasing performances of recent times at Aintree in the spring, destroying Politologue and Waiting Patiently in the Melling Chase by 20-lengths. Willie Mullins’ charge has only been out once so far this season, battling bravely after a couple of sticky jumps to retain his John Durkan crown. This will be the first time Min has run at Cheltenham without Altior in opposition. He looks to be Ireland’s leading candidate in this year’s Ryanair Chase. He’ll feature in many people’s Cheltenham Day 3 tips.

Footpad

Footpad (10/1 Unibet) has endured a couple of difficult years since ruling the roost as a novice over fences. On the back of a couple of surprise defeats, Mullins’ charge was beaten out of sight in the Ryanair 12 months ago. It looked like the real Footpad had returned when he cruised to victory at Thurles in November, but defeats in the King George followed and Footpad was well-and-truly thumped by Real Steel when the stablemates met in the Hotel Chase in January.

Ryanair Chase Tips – Overlooked Outsiders

Real Steel

Having risen past the 145-ceiling for the Close Brothers last season, Willie Mullins was forced to throw Real Steel (14/1 Ladbrokes) in with Defi Du Seuil and Lostintranslation in the JLT. Mullins’ charge could only finish an 18-length sixth that day, but Real Steel has improved leaps and bounds since then. His only defeat came when a four-length fourth behind Min in the John Durkan, and Paul Townend’s mount looked a class above Footpad when dispatching his stablemate at Thurles.

Un De Sceaux

Having won this race with a fantastic front-running display in 2017, Un De Sceaux (20/1 Paddy Power) has produced disappointing performances in the two previous renewals. Finishing second to Balko Des Flos two years ago and fifth behind Frodon last year. Mullins’ star proved age was no barrier to success when seeing off Min to win the Punchestown Champion Chase in the spring and Un De Sceaux has placed twice behind Defi Du Seuil on both his starts this term.

Saint Calvados

Harry Whittington’s star proved his undoubted class on his first start of the new season, carrying top-weight to victory on bottomless ground on his handicap debut here at Cheltenham. Defeat to Defi Du Seuil then followed in the Shloer Chase, but Saint Calvados (25/1 William Hill) shaped well on his first start over two-and-a-half-miles on New Year’s Day, coming up just a nose short of Oldgrangewood in the Paddy Power Handicap Chase. Saint Calvados was giving the winner 15-pounds that day and certainly looks open to progression over this extended trip.

Janika

Having placed carrying big weights in four prestigious handicaps last season, Janika (25/1 Ladbrokes) claimed a richly deserved victory in the Haldon Gold Cup on his reappearance. Since then, Henderson has run his seven-year-old in two Grade Ones over two miles, where he was outpaced behind Defi Du Seuil on both occasions. Janika also had a sneaky tilt at the Relkeel Hurdle on New Years Day, but he didn’t seem to enjoy the smaller obstacles. Two-and-a-half-miles over fences should be right up his street, and I would love to see Henderson’s charge take his chance in the Ryanair Chase tips.

Janika (right) finishing second under top-weight in the Brown Advisory Plate.

Ryanair Chase Tips – Look At Those Odds

Aso

Venetia Williams’ charge produced a fantastic performance in last year’s Ryanair, pushing Frodon all the way to the line despite a starting price of 33/1. Aso (33/1 Unibet) has really struggled to live up to that performance this term, losing comfortably in the Charlie Hall before lengthy defeats in the Peterborough Chase and the King George. I can’t see him mounting another challenge on what he’s produced this season.

Balko Des Flos

The 2018 Ryanair winner hasn’t seen a winner’s enclosure since that victory over Un De Sceaux. Balko Des Flos (33/1 William Hill) has been comfortably beaten on all eight of his starts, with his best performance coming when third in the Aintree Bowl in the spring. His best days seem to be behind him. He won’t be one of my Cheltenham Festival 2020 tips.

Kalashnikov

Considering his objective throughout the season has been the Ryanair Chase, I think it’s strange how Amy Murphy has campaigned Kalashnikov. Having started off with a run in the Old Roan, Kalashnikov (33/1 Paddy Power) has been lumbered with top-weight in competitive handicaps at Newbury and Cheltenham. Murphy’s charge ran well at Newbury, only going down by a nose to Oldgrangewood, but Kalashnikov laboured over the line some 37-lengths behind that same rival on New Year’s Day. He has a little bit to find if he leaps back into Grade One company.

Top Notch

The ever-popular Top Notch (33/1 William Hill) kicked off this season with victory in a hurdles race at Aintree, before handing Nicky Henderson yet another Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon. The market support was there ahead of the Silviniaco Conti Chase, but Top Notch couldn’t lay a glove on Frodon that day, passing the post a nine-length third. While he remains a capable chaser on his day, I think a Grade One victory of this magnitude is beyond him.

Mister Whitaker

Mick Channon’s former Close Brothers winner endured an injury-hit campaign last season, but did managed to get the job done over course-and-distance at the April meeting on his final start. Mister Whitaker (50/1 Unibet) has only been seen twice so far this term, running on well to place fifth on New Years’ Day, before pulling up in the Cotswold Chase. Mister Whitaker holds an entry in the Gold Cup, but this seems to be his ideal trip and Mick Channon’s chaser could be a player if back to the top of his form. He could be a sneaky Ryanair Chase tip.

Shattered Love

Another former Festival winner, having beaten Terrefort in the 2018 renewal of the JLT. Gordon Elliott tried and failed to make Shattered Love (50/1 Ladbrokes) into a Gold Cup horse last season, and she has tasted success dropping back in trip this term. Elliott’s mare has course form on her side, but nothing she’s produced since winning at the Festival suggests she’s capable of challenging for this year’s Ryanair Chase.

Real Steel has progressed really nicely over the last 12 months.

Ryanair Tips – Verdict

Although Min has been unlucky to run into Altior on all of his previous visits to the Cheltenham Festival, it’s hard to say whether he likes the course or not. Winning over two-and-a-half-miles on flat tracks like Punchestown, Leopardstown and Aintree is all well and good, but 20-and-a-half furlongs on the New Course at Cheltenham is unknown territory. Add into the fact how poorly he jumped during the recent Dublin Chase, I’m perfectly happy taking Min on.

I’d be confident siding with A Plus Tard, if he was guaranteed to run in this race. I’d say it was 70% likely he would indeed run in the Ryanair. However, with an outing in the Champion Chase a possibility for A Plus Tard, and the betting looking wide open behind him, I’m inclined to take a punt on a couple of runners at much bigger prices.

The first of my Ryanair Chase tips is REAL STEEL, who has made excellent progress this term. Willie Mullins’ charge has been jumping really consistently, and his rating has risen 12 pounds since running in last year’s JLT. Real Steel was awarded a career-high RPR of 166 for defeating Footpad at Thurles, and seemed to do that without coming out of third gear. At 14/1, he looks an excellent each-way bet.

As does JANIKA, who I believe has been running over the wrong trip all season. The fact he won the Haldon Gold Cup with such ease will have contributed to Henderson’s thinking, but two-and-a-half-miles is certainly his best trip. I didn’t think Janika would have looked out of place in last year’s Ryanair, so I’m hoping he can make a big splash if he gets the chance to run in it at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival. He’ll be my second Ryanair Chase tip.