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The Ryanair Chase (2:40pm) is a Class A Grade 1 chase run over two miles and five furlongs. It is open to horses aged five years old and upwards. The total prize fund for 2017 is £275,000 and the race was run on Thursday, March 16.

2018 Ryanair Chase Star-Rating Guide

Our expert has put together this star-rating guide for the Cheltenham Festival’s unofficial fifth Championship race.

The Stayers’ Hurdle may be the recognised Championship race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, but the Ryanair Chase is fast establishing itself as one of the biggest races of the entire meeting. Many of the sport’s greatest chasers have triumphed in this two-and-a-half mile chase and a strong field will battle it out for the massive prize pot in just over a week’s time.

Our expert has taken a look at the key players in this year’s Ryanair Chase and put together this star-rating guide – rating each contender’s chances of winning out of five stars.

BALKO DES FLOS (7/1 Ladbrokes)

Michael O’Leary craves a victory in this race more than any other at the Festival. Not a single one of his Gigginstown runners have ever managed to get the job done in the race he sponsors and O’Leary is desperate for a winner. Maybe this is one of the reasons why Balko Des Flos has plummeted in the betting over recent weeks, because - if you really analyse his seasonal form - there’s not much to suggest he will be a big player in the Ryanair.

True, his runner-up finish to Road To Respect in the Christmas Chase was a good run, but that was an extremely messy race over a longer, three mile trip. His two outings over two-and-a-half miles have ended in comprehensive defeats to both A Toi Phil and Alpha Des Obeaux. The latter isn’t even entered into the Ryanair and A Toi Phil sits on a huge price of 40/1.

Balko Des Flos fell in last year’s JLT and could only cross the line a 15 length fifth in the 2016 Albert Bartlett. His only victory this season came at the Galway Festival during the summer and Henry De Bromhead’s charge is still yet to win at Graded level – a stat I can’t see changing at the Cheltenham Festival.


 (20/1 Paddy Power)

Bellshill looked like the next major star to come out of Willie Mullins’ yard during 2016, when he won a Grade One at Punchestown and made a flying start to his chasing career. A disappointing performance in last year’s Flogas Novce Chase – where he fell when flagging behind the leaders – was followed by another uncompetitive display in the RSA Chase, as Bellshill could only cross the line a distant third.

Willie Mullins’ charge has had his injury problems since then and didn’t make his reappearance until the Bobbyjo Chase at the end of last month. The odds-on favourite beat A Genie In Abottle with plenty seemingly left in the tank and was subsequently backed for the Ryanair. While he clearly has bundles of untapped potential, this trip looks a little short and could be used as a prep-run before having a crack at the Grand National.


BENIE DES DIEUX (14/1 William Hill)

Since arriving in Willie Mullins’ stable in December 2015, Benie Des Dieux has only managed to get three runs under her belt. She claimed a superb 30 length victory on debut before being ruled out for the best part of a year. David Mullins then accompanied her on a trip to Carlisle just before Christmas, where she comfortably saw off a decent field, before facing a test of speed in a two mile Listed Chase at Naas.

Benie Des Dieux carried the tag of favouritism into battle against Asthuria and Dinaria Des Obeaux and stayed on strongly in the closing stages to claim a comfortable win. Willie Mullins has said in the build-up to Cheltenham that the Mares’ Hurdle is her most likely target, but if she does remain over fences, she could garner some each-way support.


 (12/1 Ladbrokes)

Cloudy Dream has only won one of his last nine races, but Ruth Jefferson’s chaser has been unlucky to run into some smart chasers. The eight-year-old has finished second to the likes of Altior, Buveur D’Air, Smad Place and Fox Norton - during a run which has seen him tackle two, two-and-a-half and three mile trips.

Cloudy Dream has finished second on both of his most recent runs, where it’s been clear he simply hasn’t had the staying power to see out 25 furlongs. Dropping back in trip is the sensible thing for Jefferson to do at this point and two-and-a-half miles looks to be his perfect trip. So many runner-up finishes suggest he lacks the will to win, but any horse with his consistency at the highest level has to be respected.


CUE CARD (8/1 William Hill)

Although this will be an emotional Cheltenham Festival for Cue Card’s legion of passionate followers, they will have been delighted when Colin Tizzard decided to give up on his Gold Cup ambitions and head back to the Ryanair. The popular 12-year-old claimed a nine length victory in the 2013 running of this race, before trying to make the transition to three mile chasing.

Cue Card may have claimed several Grade One victories over 24 furlongs, but he’s never looked truly comfortable. In-fact, over the past two or three years, his most convincing performances have come in the two-and-a-half mile Ascot Chase. 12 months after destroying the competition to claim his ninth career Grade One, Cue Card battled valiantly in a losing effort behind Waiting Paitently in this year’s renewal.

Tizzard’s charge may have lost out to his Ryanair rival, but his performance on the day was impressive and he finished a long way ahead of Top Notch and Frodon. Cue Card’s retirement may be imminent, but he’s still capable of ending his stint as a Cheltenham Festival regular on an almighty high and his current odds appeal more than any other.


 (16/1 BetVictor)

Frodon has made a staggering 15 appearance in the last 2 seasons alone - with nine of those outings coming in Graded races. Paul Nicholls’ charge has managed to win a couple of big races, with the Rising Stars and Pendil Novices’ Chases sitting near the top of the list. After storming to an excellent victory in the Crest Nicholson Handicap, Frodon deserved his spot in the Ascot Chase field, but Bryony Frost’s mount was never really in the winning discussion.

In truth, Paul Nicholls had no other option but to enter Frodon into a Grade One. Rated at 162, he’s too high to get into a handicap like the Ultima – a race he is much better suited to than a Grade One of this ilk. The more he features in Grade Ones, the better Frodon will get and, at the age of six, he has plenty of years left to improve. However, at this current time, the Ryanair looks beyond him.


MIN (6/1 William Hill)

On his return from long-term injury, Willie Mullins allowed Min to tackle a two-and-a-half mile trip for the very first time. After scoring a powerful victory in that reappearance, a routine win was expected at Leopardstown’s Christmas Festival. As that race went on, Min seemed less and less comfortable with this extended trip and only crossed the line ahead of Simply Ned after some major interference – a result which was rightly overturned.

Min was back to his best at the Dublin Racing Festival, as he dropped back to two miles. He looked head and shoulders above any of his Irish rivals, streaking clear to leave Simply Ned 12 lengths in his wake. If Douvan is declared fit to start the Champion Chase, there is a chance Min could accompany Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair, but the Champion Chase looks to be his perfect race.

MIN RATING ⭐ 3.5 ⭐

(20/1 Paddy Power)

Sub Lieutenant came into last year’s Festival on the back of a victory over Outlander in the Grade Two Belfast Chase and a couple of narrow defeats to Sizing John and Djakadam. Un De Sceaux proved too strong on the day, but Sub Lieutenant was eating into the winners’ lead with ever stride down the home straight and crossed the line just a length-and-a-half behind.

This season’s results haven’t been nearly as impressive. Henry De Bromhead’s charge didn’t come close to winning the Irish Daily Star and was comprehensively beaten in both the JNWine Champion Chase and the John Durkan. Sub Lieutenant’s inactivity since that December defeat is worrying and it would be a huge shock if he was as competitive as he was 12 months ago.


UN DE SCEAUX (5/2 BetVictor)

Ruby Walsh attempted to restrain his mount during the early stages of last year’s Ryanair, but once he realised he was fighting a losing battle, he allowed Un De Sceaux to bowl along at the front of the field. Some wonderful jumps helped establish a clear lead and, despite visibly tiring in the closing stages, Un De Sceaux clung on to claim his second Cheltenham Festival prize.

After losing out to Fox Norton over two miles at Punchestown’s season ending Festival, Willie Mullins’ ten-year-old cruised to a routine victory on his reappearance in the Hilly Way Chase. He then returned to Ascot searching for a history-making hat-trick of Clarence House wins and Paul Townend’s mount got the job done with the minimum of fuss.

Un De Sceaux has lost just six of his 24 runs over jumps, winning eight Grade Ones in the process. His chances of winning increased with every ounce of snow that settled on the track, yet, Mullins’ charge has beaten very little this season and the time of his Clarence House victory was fairly uninspiring. Un De Sceaux is still the one to beat, but this year’s renewal looks much more competitive and the market leader could be gettable.


(10/1 William Hill)

I got plenty of stick at the start of the season when I openly stated Yorkhill wasn’t a Gold Cup horse and that claim has proven to be correct. Willie Mullins had always seemed reluctant to commit his chaser to three miles and, after flopping on his reappearance in the Christmas Chase, any plans to enter the Gold Cup were quickly shelved. Following another dismal effort over two miles at the Dublin Racing Festival, Willie Mullins has been desperately trying to decide where to go with Yorkhill. 

It’s too early to write off the season, but which race to enter him into is a subject of great debate. Mullins has seemed keen to switch him back to hurdles for the past 18 months and is said to be leaning towards the Champion Hurdle. Personally, after winning the JLT last year, the Ryanair seems the natural progression. 

Yorkhill clearly has class and his record at the Festival cannot be ignored, but he’s looked woefully short of form this season and it’s still not confirmed whether he will even jump a fence at this year’s Festival.


Full Ryanair Star-Rating Guide

⭐ CUE CARD - 5 ⭐
MIN - 3.5

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Ryanair Chase Facts

Recent Winners

The introduction of the Ryanair Chase has proved to be an unqualified success.

There were those who feared that the race might detract from the Queen Mother Chase or the Gold Cup. However the event has proved that there is a place at the Festival for a separate championship race over this distance.

In fact, not only is there currently a crop of top class two and half mile chasers, there are also a number of horses who specialise at that sort of trip around Cheltenham. Races such as the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Boylesports Gold Cup, therefore, are proving to be excellent form guides for this race.

2017        Un De Sceaux 7/4 F
2016        Vautour
2015        Uxizandre
2014        Dynaste
2013 Cue Card
2012 Riverside Theatre
2011 Albertas Run
2010 Albertas Run
2009 Imperial Commander
2008 Our Vic
2007 Taranis
2006 Fondmort
2005 Thisthatandtother

Race Facts

1. The Ryanair Chase was introduced to The Festival in 2005. It replaced the Cathcart Chase, although the conditions of the race changed slightly with it being open to all horses rather than being restricted to first and second season chasers.

2. The first three renewals were run as Grade Two contests before it was upgraded to its current Grade One status in 2008.

3. The Daily Telegraph backed the inaugural contest, with Irish airline Ryanair taking over the sponsorship for 2006. Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, came close to winning his company’s money in 2008 when owning the runner-up Mossbank.

4. Fondmort, the 100/30 joint-favourite, was landing his fourth race at Cheltenham when victorious in 2006. Our Vic, successful in 2008, was winning for the third time at the course and had a further four Cheltenham placed efforts to his name, including when runner-up in the 2007 Ryanair Chase.

5. The 2009 winner Imperial Commander went on to complete a championship race double when landing the following season's Cheltenham Gold Cup. The 10-year-old, trained locally by Nigel Twiston-Davies, has now won six times at Cheltenham with his other victories including the 2008 Paddy Power Gold Cup. The dual Ryanair Chase winner Albertas Run (2010-11) had previously won the 2008 RSA Chase, so Cheltenham form is clearly paramount.

2012 Ryanair Chase Review

With Nicky Henderson carrying all before him the meeting (seven winners by the end of it!), there was plenty of market confidence behind his RIVERSIDE THEATRE, and he duly obliged at 7/2.

His backers would have had their hearts in their mouths at several jumps, though, as the eight-year-old hit most of them going round, but still had enough in reserve to deny the hat-trick seeking Albertas Run, with just half a length separating the pair at the line.

In fact, it was a messy race with several horses being forced into errors, not least the third horse home Medermit, who perhaps would have won with a clear round. Captain Chris clearly found the pace too hot but still plugged on to finish fourth.

2011 Ryanair Chase Review

Albertas Run recorded back-to-back victories in the Ryanair Chase, but only after a dramatic conclusion which saw a racegoer find his way onto the track.

Jonjo O'Neill's stable star, a 6-1 chance, bounded up the hill under the hands of legendary jockey Tony McCoy to hold Kalahari King (7-1), with Rubi Light (16-1) third.

The racegoer somehow managed to get on the track but thankfully no horses or jockeys were hurt, although it only added to the drama of a fascinating race.  Poquelin, sent off the 2-1 favourite, was surprisingly one of the first beaten, while Kalahari King came from the rear of the field to make his bid.

2010 Ryanair Chase Review

There's no doubt that the combination of spring weather and good ground bring out the best in ALBERTAS RUN and he doesn't mind running at the Festival either as he followed up his RSA Chase win in 2008 with a brave win in this years Ryanair. He also gets on superbly with Tony McCoy and the champion jockey gave him a brilliant ride here, kicking for home four out and making use of the winners undoubted stamina to see off the challenges and Poquelin and Jy Vole.

Albertas Run may not be the most consistent, but he is clearly one of the best chasers in training and deserved his big race success here.

Poquelin loves Cheltenham and so it was no surprise to see him go off favourite for his powerful connections over his optimum trip. He looked to be going better than the winner three out, but after getting involved in some barging on the home turn he quickly looked held. There appeared to be no excuses and he was simply beaten by a better horse on the day.

The Irish mare, Jy Vole, who so often in the past has been suited by soft ground, put up arguably her best effort to date despite the decent ground. She too was travelling ominously well on the run downhill towards the home bend, but also got caught in the scrimmaging after three out and was made to look one paced by the winner. Maybe slightly softer ground would have seen her go even closer.

The rest were fairly well strung out and came home at regular intervals.

Deep Purple (fourth) didnt quite seem to stay out the trip on this more testing track, but this at least was a more encouraging effort after his flop in the King George.

Voy Por Ustedes (fifth) is probably past his best now, although his stable hasnt had the best of seasons, which cant have helped his cause. The first time blinkers failed to bring about much of a revival.

There was no real show from any of the Henderson trio.

Barbers Shop (seventh) seems a bit tripless as he doesnt stay the Gold Cup distance and doesnt have the speed of the very best over 2 miles. Maybe his King George effort has left a mark.

Jack The Giant (eighth) has been off the track for a long time, and this was a step up in class for him, so he can probably be forgiven a slightly disappointing effort, whilst Petit Robin (tenth) didnt seem to stay and has never really shown his best here.

2009 Ryanair Chase Review

Another excellent renewal of a race that has quickly established itself as one of the premier chases in the jump racing calendar and Paddy Power Gold Cup winner, IMPERIAL COMMANDER made it a notable double with a decisive victory.

In fact, he has now won four of his five starts at the track and with only eleven previous career starts under his belt he should improve again next term and could well be aimed at next year’s Gold Cup. The longer trip is surely within his reach given how well he stayed on up the hill here. He has been one of the finds of the season.

Voy Por Ustedes is also something of a course specialist, with two Festival victories (in the Arkle and the Queen Mother) already on his glittering CV. Although this has been something of a new trip for him this season, he was many people’s banker of the meeting following a superb win at Ascot over 2m 5f in unsuitably heavy ground last time out. However, he ruined his chances here with an almighty blunder at the fourth last. To his credit, he kept coming back for more and despite further errors he stayed on gamely to take second. He’ll surely be in the mix in this race again next season, providing he jumps better.

Schindlers Hunt, another former two mile specialist, seems to have improved for a step up in trip and that, combined with the better ground here, saw him put up his best effort to date and he was unlucky to just lose out on second close home. He pressed the winner from the second last right until the dying strides and connections clearly have plenty of new big race options now that he has proved his stamina.

The enigmatic Tidal Bay, another former Arkle winner, got going all too late, but flew up the hill to finish fourth. He still gives the impression that something isn’t quite right, either physically or mentally, and he doesn’t seem totally in love with the game at the moment.

Gwanko (fifth) has always been ultra consistent and ran another solid race here. This is probably as good as he is and connections will be faced with a dilemma in the future as he is plenty high enough in the handicap, but lacks the class for these championship races.

Monet’s Garden (sixth) hasn’t always shown his best around here and that appeared to be the case again today.

The evergreen Mister McGoldrick ran with plenty of credit in this company, only fading after the third last.

2008 Ryanair Chase Review

It was fourth time lucky for OUR VIC as David Pipe’s hugely talented 10 year old finally secured the Festival win his ability has always warranted. Supporting first time blinkers, Our Vic was in the front rank throughout and despite clouting the second last he was nicely clear approaching the last and stayed on well on the run in to claim this valuable prize.

Plenty have questioned the resilience of this horse down the years, but not many can match his superb strike rate (nearly 50%) and he has won his owner, David Johnson, nearly £500,000 in win and place prize money. On this showing, he is better than ever right now.

Mossbank was given a patient ride out the back, but as a consequence was never quite able to get to the winner. He would probably have preferred an even sounder surface as his jockey reported that he found the ground a bit tacky. He also stays further and may be back for a crack at the Gold Cup next year.

Turko won the battle with Knight Legend and The Listener for third.

Turko didn’t help his chances with some lacklustre jumping, but he stayed on well up the hill after losing his place three out. He’ll also be suited by a step back up in trip.

Knight Legend’s fourth was a career best effort. Unlike the second and third, he didn’t quite get up the hill, but his improved effort here was in no small part down to a much slicker performance over the obstacles. As only a second season chaser, he can improve further.

The Listener was never going to be suited by this trip on this ground and it was a surprise to see him go off favourite. In the circumstances, this wasn’t a bad effort. There are plenty more good races in him when he returns to his favourite conditions.

Racing Demon flew up the hill having been miles off the pace three out. Once again, his tendency to jump to the right hindered his chances here and this clearly isn’t his favourite track. He’ll undoubtedly be aimed at the Peterborough Chase again next season.

L’Antartique has become disappointing and appears to have fallen out of love with the game.

2007 Ryanair Chase Review

Although in only its third year, this race has quickly established itself as one of the blue riband events of the Festival, and this year’s field was full of top class horses who served up a thrilling finish worthy of the huge first prize.

The complexion of the race was changed completely by the fall of long time leader Crozan at one of the notorious downhill fences, four from home. That left eventual winner, TARANIS in front and that’s were he stayed, repelling a serious of challengers in the process.

This was a fine effort from Paul Nicholls’ horse who is only six years old and could develop into a Gold Cup horse next year. For now, though, he is a specialist at this trip, as his fine performance here in the Paddy Power Gold Cup earlier in the season proved. He fell at the second last that day, but had he stood up he could easily have beaten Exotic Dancer, giving that horse ten pounds. He certainly showed no end of courage here and his connections have always held him in the highest regard.

Monet’s Garden was the first of the challengers to have a pop at the winner. He hadn’t travelled particularly well for much of the final circuit, but he took the lead briefly three out before being outpaced and finishing a slightly disappointing fourth. The evidence here suggested he needs further but his form earlier in the season had connections eying a crack at the Queen Mother over the shorter trip of two miles. It may simply be that the horse wasn’t at his best today.

Billyvoddan was the next serious challenger. He got to within a length of the winner on the run in but never really looked like getting past. He has had a marvellous season, though, and has been rejuvenated by blinkers. He is perhaps even better over slightly further.

The last horse to try to wrestle the prize from the winner was the mercurial Our Vic. He had struggled for much of the contest and at no point looked like getting into the race until spouting wings after jumping the last. In fact, he was probably an unlucky loser as he was hampered by the fall of Crozan and lost more ground there than the distance he was beaten in the end.

It is hard to crab a horse that has won as many races and as much prize money as Our Vic, but he is extremely hard to predict and his form figures that contain almost as many “P’s” as “1’s” probably sum him up.

Crozan was the other unlucky horse of the race as he was still travelling strongly when coming to grief. Ironically, he had jumped pretty well prior to falling and was clearly inspired by first time blinkers and a return to decent ground. He has no end of talent, but is almost as much of an enigma as Our Vic.

Racing Demon again threw away his chances by jumping persistently out to the right. He did well to finish as close as he did, given the amount of ground he gave away.

Hi Cloy hasn’t been in the same form as he was last year, whilst Thisthatandother probably isn’t as good as he once was – not over this trip at least.

2006 Ryanair Chase Review

An emotional success for one of the most popular horses in training and one of the all time great Cheltenham specialists. As Nicky Henderson remarked after the race, FONDMORT may not be a Best Mate or an Arkle but he really deserved his place on the Festival roll of honor as there are few gamer horses in training, or better jumpers. This was his fourth course and distance success, including victories in the Paddy Power and the Tripleprint, and he was only just touched off in this event last year.

The race was run at a furious pace from the start, and the time was around two seconds quicker than that taken earlier in the afternoon by Reveillez in the Jewson.

Jockey Mick Fitzgerald took Fondmort to the front four out, having been prominent from the off. He was determined to ensure that Tony McCoy, aboard Impek, didn’t turn the race into a sprint. The tactics worked in the end, but it had taken a lot out of the horse going clear up the straight and he was running on empty at the finish. The line came just in time to deny the fast finishing Lacdoudal, with Impek just a further head back in third.

Lacdoudal is another horse who loves Cheltenham and he is likely to continue to be aimed at these sorts of races and the big handicaps run at the track. However, recent efforts have suggested that a step up in trip might suit (he was slightly outpaced mid-race here) and a crack at next year’s Gold Cup surely isn’t out of the question.

Much to the annoyance of his trainer, Impek got very upset before the start. Henrietta Knight felt that the horse could easily have been calmed down before the off but the starter didn’t give her the chance and connections clearly believed afterwards that the incident affected his chances. Not that he ran badly, however. He was in the firing line throughout, but was just outstayed up the straight. A bad mistake two out didn’t help, but he’s had an excellent season and is sure to be back for another crack at this race next year.

The first three were well clear giving the form a very solid look.

Once again, the big disappointment was a well fancied Martin Pipe runner. However, Old Vic has never been the most consistent of horses and he is just as likely to win as pull up.

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