2021 Ryanair Chase Tips – Min Leading The Mullins Charge

Paul Townend celebrates after Min won the 2020 Ryanair Chae

Paul Townend celebrates after Min won the 2020 Ryanair Chae

Ryanair Chase Tips

The 2021 Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching and every day this month Daniel Overall will be on hand with some fantastic previews. Daniel’s first race is the Ryanair Chase, one of the feature events on Cheltenham Festival Day 3.

Ryanair Chase Overview

Upgraded to Grade 1 status in 2008, the Ryanair Chase often has a complex look to it from an ante-post perspective and this year is no exception. 

As is customary, the majority of those at the top of the market have other entries throughout the week. Of the 13 currently priced at 20/1 or shorter, 12 also hold an entry in either the Champion Chase or the Gold Cup; some are entered in all three!

Only One Entry

The one who is solely entered in the Ryanair is Mister Fisher (16/1), who won the rescheduled Peterborough Chase on the new course at Cheltenham having pulled up in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on his seasonal reappearance. To give 3lbs and a beating to Kalashnikov on ground that would have been softer than ideal was impressive, as Nicky Henderson has always been of the opinion that he’ll be seen to best effect on a sounder surface.

Even so he’ll need to progress further to win this but there’s every chance he might do just that; with only six chase starts to his name, there’s scope for improvement and it’s worth noting that five of the last eight winners of the Ryanair were second season chasers. 

Assessing the Irish

Mister Fisher was fourth in last season’s Marsh Novices’ Chase, finishing behind the Irish trio: Faugheen, Melon (12/1) and the winner, Samcro (20/1). Samcro has yet to sparkle this season this term and was last seen pulling up in the Savills Chase; he’s likely to run at the Dublin Racing Festival but he has plenty to prove at this stage.

In stark contrast, Melon put in a career best performance over fences when finishing a narrow third in the Leopardstown Grade 1 over the Christmas period. Under an uncharacteristically aggressive ride from Patrick Mullins, Melon took over from Kemboy (16/1) at the head of affairs with a mile still left to travel. Perhaps the stablemates got racing too soon, which allowed the fast-finishing A Plus Tard (16/1) to get up on the line. Interestingly, Patrick Mullins didn’t feel it was a case of Melon & Kemboy getting tired but you would have to question Melon’s chances of staying the Gold Cup trip. As a result, you’d think the four-time Cheltenham Festival runner-up would be better suited to the intermediate trip, where an aggressive ride might make use of his increasingly slick jumping. Min managed to get his long overdue Cheltenham victory in this race last season – it could well be Melon’s turn this time around.

More Mullins Musings

Willie Mullins will be well represented here, and no horse will hold more obvious claims than last year’s winner, Min (6/1). Now a seven-time Grade 1 winner, he is certainly the standard setter and it will take a good performance to beat him if he’s at his best. He’s ten years old now but he won the John Durkan his seasonal reappearance for the third time in succession when last seen and there’s little to suggest that his age is catching up with in.

He is entered in the Champion Chase but you’d imagine that Willie Mullins would only consider dropping him back in trip if Chacun Pour Soi (16/1) were to miss the festival. While unlikely, it isn’t impossible to imagine that scenario playing out especially given the fragility of Chacun Pour Soi. It’s certainly something to consider if you’re thinking of backing him ante-post.

Allaho (6/1) is another of the Mullins battalion likely to run here instead of the Gold Cup having failed to convince as a stayer thus far. Third in both the Albert Bartlett and the Festival Novices’ Chase, his defeats in the John Durkan and the Savills Chase took his record in Grade 1 company to 0/5, although he has placed three times at the highest level.

Seemingly too keen to thrive over three miles at present, he was an impressive winner of the Horse & Jockey Hotel Chase when last seen when dropped back to an intermediate trip. Four seconds quicker than stablemate Colreevy was earlier on the card, he made most of the running that day but you have to wonder how he’ll fare against the likes of Min who will also be ridden positively. Still only a seven-year-old, you get the impression that there’s a big race in him but I question whether this will be it. 

Tornado Flyer (25/1) and Easy Game (50/1) are other potential runners for the Irish champion trainer; the former was only a length behind Min in the John Durkan earlier in the season and was fifth in the Marsh last year. The latter beat The Storyteller earlier in the season but has disappointed since while his previous Cheltenham efforts leave a lot to be desired. Both will need to run a career best to have a chance of winning here.

Willie Mullins: holds a host of good chances in the Ryanair Chase

Willie Mullins: holds a host of good chances in the Ryanair Chase

Best of the British

Saint Calvados (9/1) was a narrow second in this race last year and might’ve won had he not blundered the final fence. Having shaped encouragingly in the King George on his seasonal reappearance at a time when the yard wasn’t firing on all cylinders, Harry Whittington remains convinced that he will stay three miles, but he does travel powerfully and you’d worry about his stamina over the Gold Cup trip. A tearaway front runner in his youth, he’s more relaxed nowadays and with stamina assured over 2m5f, he may well be ridden more positively than he was in this race last term. 

He was due to run in the Cotswold Chase on Trials Day in order to determine his festival target; but the abandonment of that meeting and the uncertainty surrounding its rearrangement has thrown that plan up in the air. The Ryanair looks the more realistic target for the son of Saint Des Saints, which is indicated by his current price of 40/1 for the Gold Cup.

Like Saint Calvados, Waiting Patiently (16/1) ran a great race in the King George, rattling home from off the pace to finish a valiant second on his first start for over a year. Versatile, talented but notoriously fragile, the Champion Chase is no longer on the agenda following his run in the Clarence House.

The Ryanair remains an option although he could swerve the meeting altogether in favour of going to Aintree. He would be a fascinating addition to this race but he would be the first Ryanair winner since it’s been upgraded to a Grade 1 to have not run at a previous festival.

Other contenders to note include Master Tommytucker (25/1), who won the Silvinicao Conti Chase at Kempton when capitalising on the early departure of Imperial Aura (7/1). His participation here seems unlikely given his trainers post-race comments, with Aintree the likely end of season target.

Imperial Aura blotted his copybook at Kempton but he had been progressive prior to that run, for all that his form still leaves him with something to find with the likes of Min. Last season’s Northern Trust Novices’ Handicap Chase winner is entitled to respect but you’d like to see a positive outing prior to this if you were to back him.

One that’s unlikely to line up here but would certainly add another dimension to the race is the four-time festival winner, Altior (16/1). The Champion Chase remains the likely target, but there’s little denying that he doesn’t travel with the same zest he once did; he certainly shaped like a horse in need of further in the Desert Orchid. I’m sure connections of Min, who has finished behind Altior on all three occasions that the pair have met, will be hoping to avoid his old adversary.  

Ryanair Chase: Big-race Verdict

Willie Mullins holds a strong hand here, although it’s notable that his three leading contenders all like to be up with the pace; we could be in for a fascinating tactical battle at the head of affairs. At the prices, I’m happy to oppose Allaho as I question whether he’ll be able to deal with the pace and slick jumping of Min and Melon. The latter holds excellent place claims given his festival record, but Willie’s leading hope is Min; the class act in the race who remains the one to beat.

With subsequent Grade 1 winners, A Plus Tard and Frodon, finishing third and fourth respectively in last year’s renewal, that race looks like standout form. Second last year, this race may set up perfectly for Saint Calvados who doesn’t have much to find with Min based on his performance twelve months ago. With stamina now assured, he can be ridden more positively this time around which could make all the difference.