Cheltenham Festival 2019: Ryanair Chase Preview
This race is now the most valuable on Thursday and by default has become the feature race of the day. Again, this is a race that has huge potential to cut up with horses towards the top of the market more than likely to be engaged elsewhere and in the case of Ruth Jefferson’s Waiting Patiently, unlikely to run at all and wait for Aintree.
The market leader is Monalee and he seems more than likely to run here and is the market leader by default as a result. I would probably say this is his ideal trip, he has failed to see out 3 miles around Cheltenham in the Albert Bartlett and the RSA the last two years but managing to place, despite not fully seeing out the trip. I do have concerns about his jumping though, he fell a few times as a novice. Once in that infamous Punchestown race when Monalee seemed to have the race at his mercy two out only to make a mistake, which to my eye seemed to be him not keeping his mind on the task at hand. His jumping has improved this season and his second in the Savills Chase at Leopardstown is arguably the best bit of form on offer, but I am inclined to look elsewhere as this horse does not win as often as he should.
Next up is Footpad, who looked to have the world at his feet after a flawless novice campaign resulting in victories in the English & Irish Arkle’s as well as further Grade 1 success at Punchestown. He has only run twice this season, once on seasonal reappearance where he was beaten by Saint Calvados, who has done absolutely nothing to frank the form since. Footpad’s second run of the season resulted in a defeat by the 12-year-old Simply Ned, with form like this in the book it is simply not good enough to win a race like this. Both times Willie Mullins has said the horse has suffered an overreach and as a result he has tried schooling him without shoes on his hind feet and this has apparently stopped the overreach issue but will it see him improve enough to win? I don’t think so.
Another entrant from the Mullins stable is Min, who is more likely to contest the Champion Chase rather than rock up here. Even if he were to run here, despite being the best horse in the race, I would be against him. Although he has won over two and a half miles is the John Durkan. He only beat Shattered Love and Balko Des Flos who again, have done nothing to back up that form. This race is also over a slightly extended trip and he seemed to stop at Aintree when defeated by Politologue at the Grand National meeting last year which is a more conventional two miles and four furlongs. He also races with the choke out and can be very keen so, in my opinion will not see out the trip even if Ruby Walsh was to hold him up patiently.
Frodon has great form over this course and distance but was suitably put in his place in a weaker renewal of this race last year and may be Gold Cup bound. Un De Sceaux is getting on a bit now and his preference for softer ground would be of a concern here, when it looks like it is going to be decent enough especially with it being the first days racing on the New Course. I don’t think they will water enough to play to his strengths. Top Notch is an admirable horse but simply put does not win Grade 1 open company chases – I would not rule out a place for him though.
The horse that appeals most here at 14/1 is Fox Norton for the Colin Tizzard stable. This horse has some of the best form in the book, and seems to have found his form again after a belated reappearance behind Altior at Ascot and then trailing in the wake of Cyrname at the same track a couple of weeks ago. This horse loves two and a half miles on decent ground, has accounted for Un De Sceaux and finished ahead of good yard sticks such as Politologue and Charbel most recently at Ascot. He has course form to his name, including a second in a Champion Chase which he probably would have won with another few strides. He has won a Schloer Chase twice and a handicap at the course too. He is also a Grade 1 winner over the trip at Aintree when he won as he pleased. This horse is massively overpriced and could go off around 6/1 on the day, he jumps well and never seems to take a keen hold. He can be ridden patiently or up with the pace and that versatility could play into his hands here, as depending on what horses actually take their place at the tapes will dictate how the race is going to be run.
Selection – Fox Norton @ 14/1 with Betfair