The Ryanair Chase is the two and a half mile championship at the Cheltenham Festival. A Plus Tard is tipped to provide Henry De Bromhead with a second major chase victory following the Arkle Trophy on Tuesday. Min is regarded as the main danger, a tough and consistent performer trained by Willie Mullins. Last year’s winner Frodon looks certain to give his supporters a good run for their money and is rated the best each-way bet.
12 months’ ago it was Bryony Frost taking the plaudits after her gutsy win on Frodon. They are back to defend their crown but the market leader is A Plus Tard, the mount of Rachael Blackmore. The combination stormed up the hill at the corresponding meeting to win the Close Brothers’ Handicap Chase.
A Plus Tard was racing off a mark of 144 that day and followed up by finishing third in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown. He continued his progress by chasing home Ballyoisin in a Grade 2 at Navan before winning his first Grade 1 at Leopardstown. That was over an extended two miles where he defeated the highly rated Chacun Pour Soi by three and three-quarter lengths.
He is now rated 166, just 2lbs lower than Frodon. A Plus Tard jumps and stays well and is tipped to give Blackmore a high profile success at 2-1 with Paddy Power.
Min has won ten of his twenty races under rules but is still seeking his first win at a Cheltenham Festival. He was beaten by Altior in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Last year he finished fifth in the two-mile Champion Chase but is equally effective over two and a half miles.
He was a brilliant winner over this distance at Aintree last season when beating Politologue by 20 lengths. Min won the Grade 1 Punchestown Chase in December and was runner-up to Chacun Pour Soi at Leopardstown. He may have found the two miles on the sharp side that day and is rated the chief danger to A Plus Tard at a top-priced 11-4 with Paddy Power.
Frodon delighted the crowd last season with a hard-fought victory in this race under Bryony Frost. He was a little rusty on his seasonal debut at Aintree and finished a remote third to Lostintranslation in the Betfair Chase. The tough gelding got his season back on track when beating Keeper Hill at Kempton in January. He reserves his best form for Cheltenham and should make a bold bid for back-to-back victories.
Riders Onthe Storm is entitled to respect after winning his last three races for Nigel Twiston-Davies. In the most recent of these he beat Janika in soft ground at Ascot but that only tells half of the story. The race was marred by last fence falls for odds-on favourite Cyrname and the outsider Traffic Fluide. Riders Onthe Storm looked to have a very hard race that day and he could still be feeling the effects.
Aso was runner-up last season but has not reached that level of form since. Trainer Venetia Williams fits him with a pair of blinkers to try to rekindle his enthusiasm. Duc Dec Genievres looked like a future Champion when bolting up in last season’s Arkle Trophy. The grey has been beaten in all five subsequent races and was held when falling at Leopardstown last time. Frodon looks a solid each-way bet at 5-1 with Sky Bet.