Ryanair Chase Betting Preview: Un De Sceaux Possesses Necessary Je Ne Sais Quoi for Victory
There’s a double-header of elite-level racing on Thursday at the Cheltenham Festival with the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Ryanair Chase sitting very neatly back-to-back in the afternoon, and from a punters’ perspective it is perhaps the latter that holds the most appeal.
The Ryanair Chase has delivered some outstanding winners in the past, including Alberta’s Run, Imperial Commander, Cue Card and Our Vic, while the reigning champion is Vautour, who so tragically passed away late in 2016. This renewal also offered up the final Cheltenham winner for one A.P. McCoy.
The reason why this race is attracting so much attention from the betting floor is that we have some five runners all priced at 10/1 or shorter, which means there is no real consensus as to who the most obvious winner is. That opens the door to punters willing to go the extra mile in their analysis.
All of the above being said, it is very easy to make a case for the favourite, Un De Sceaux, who is available at the 5/2 mark with bet365.
The nine-year-old is trained by Willie Mullins – as handy a betting angle in as you can get at Cheltenham, and in his last appearance at the festival was bested only by the unstoppable Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase 12 months ago.
A career record of 12 wins in 16 starts is as impressive as it reads, particularly as his connections have been keen to get him involved in as many high profile renewals as possible. This is a horse that has triumphed at Cheltenham, around the UK, in Ireland and in France, so his versatility is unbridled.
Since then he has claimed two notable victories in the Clarence House and Tingle Creek Chase – making two huge mistakes in the latter but still having the power to get home, and realistically there is nobody in this field that can live with Un De Sceaux, particularly if there is some softness to the surface.
The Chasing Pack
As mentioned, there are four other horses priced at 10/1 or under in this Ryanair Chase cast, and each has their plus points and disadvantages.
Uxizandre is an outstanding horse but underworked, and his best performances have come with McCoy and Barry Geraghty on board; neither of whom will steer the ship on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Henry de Bromhead is arguably yet to get the best from Sub Lieutenant, while Josses Hill was outclassed when stepping up to elite company in the King George VI Chase.
All of which makes Empire of Dirt (4/1, Coral) the most likely runner to challenge Un De Sceaux’s dominance.
The ten-year-old has enjoyed podium finishes in each of this last four starts (three wins, one second), and is a horse that has often been undervalued by the bookies: his last trio of wins have come at 8/1, 12/1 and 16/1, including a triumph in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate on the good going of Cheltenham almost a year ago to the day.
The Outside Punts
Outside of the main bunch there isn’t much to get excited about in truth, although the fact that Village Vic has a formline of 2-3-2 from his last three trips to Cheltenham – all of which have come in the past four months – will interest some.
Available at anything from 20/1 to 33/1 depending on the bookmaker, with Betfred best priced at that upper mark, this Irish chaser was a length and a neck away from claiming the spoils in the BetVictor and Caspian Caviar sponsored Gold Cup Handicap Chases in November and December, while a three-length defeat in his sole 2017 outing to date has only dampened the mood a little.
There is a big performance in this horse, and as a regular Cheltenham visitor that local knowledge could pay dividends.