Cheltenham Ryanair Chase Preview


Shishkin - Ryanair Chase


Day 3 at the Cheltenham Festival sees the course celebrate all things Irish, with the track’s annual St. Patrick’s Thursday – not that those making the trip over from the Emerald Isle need any encouragement to get the party started!

Turning to the action on the track, the Stayers Hurdle is the official headline act, but only a whisker behind it is one of the meeting's signature contests over fences – the Ryanair Chase. Of the major races at the meeting, few have seen so many market shake-ups as this event, but with under a week to go, things (finally) seem to have settled down. Here we take a look at the main contenders and make our prediction for the top three.

The Hot Favourite: Shiskin 4/5 @ Betfred

Following the injury to the 2021 and 2022 winner, Allaho, this looked like being one of the more wide-open Grade 1 events of the meeting. However, all that has now changed, courtesy of Nicky Henderson’s latest display of resurrecting one of his stable stars.

Whilst not quite of Sprinter Sacre proportions, the renaissance of Shiskin is nevertheless another example of Henderson’s perseverance and tender handling. A previous winner of the Supreme Novice Hurdle and Arkle Chase at this meeting, it all went wrong for Shiskin when pulled up in the Champion Chase here last year. A rare bone condition was to blame that day, but things weren’t too much better when he was beaten 15 lengths on his comeback in the Tingle Creek Chase – a result which put his Cheltenham target up in the air.

Henderson was of the opinion that 2m is simply too short a trip for one of his stable stars these days, and rolled the dice on that assessment when plunging the horse into the Grade 1 2m5f Ascot Chase last time out. What followed was one of the most scintillating chase displays of the season to date. Looking far more comfortable going a half stride slower, Shiskin showed all his old zest in pulverising his rivals by 16 lengths – and promptly rocketed to the head of the betting for this.

The Main Challenger: Blue Lord 11/2 @ BetUK

If Shiskin turns up in anything like the same form as at Ascot, the rest will likely be racing for second. However, it isn’t a certainty that he will, and there are a host of talented chasers ready and waiting to pounce should the jolly underperform.

The most likely threat to the Henderson star - at least according to the betting market - is the Willie Mullins trained, Blue Lord. This one boasts a solid record at the Festival, having looked booked for second when falling at the last in the 2021 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and finishing third in last season's Arkle. A three-time Grade 1 winner, and successful over this trip at Clonmel in November, he looks solid to go well.

The Lively Outsider: Envoi Allen 11/1 @ Virgin Bet

Looking a little further down the list, last season's runner-up Janidil will likely run his usual solid race, whilst Gordon Elliott’s, Fury Road has an impressive record of hitting the frame, but usually comes up short at this level.

At a double-figure price, the most appealing each-way bet for our money is a punt on the Henry De Bromhead-trained, Envoi Allen. A winner of the Champion Bumper in 2019 and the Ballymore Novices Hurdle in 2020, at one stage, this Cheveley Park runner was one of the most talked about horses in training. Things haven't gone as well as connections would have hoped in recent seasons, but he showed the ability still remains when landing a Grade 1 at Down Royal in November. A subsequent flop in the King George needs to be forgiven, but he has been given a break since and can go well back at a track which suits him well.

Race Prediction

  • 1st - Shiskin
  • 2nd - Envoi Allen
  • 3rd - Janidil

More Cheltenham Festival Articles:

Cheltenham Gold Cup Preview 2023

Cheltenham Champion Hurdle Preview

Cheltenham Queen Mother Champion Chase Preview

Cheltenham Festival 155/1 Acca

Cheltenham Stayers Hurdle Preview

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