Matt Tombs / Tuesday 2nd December 2014 / 15:45
The Ryanair is very much the poor relation of the open Grade 1s at the Festival. Understandably the vast majority of owners with a top chaser want to try and win one of the championship events, the Champion Chase or Gold Cup. Every autumn the Ryanair market is full of unlikely runners. If you can sift through them, there ought to be some value in those that are likely to be targeted at the race.
Those that would have a good chance if lining up but are being aimed elsewhere include Champagne Fever (12/1), Road To Riches (14/1), Al Ferof (16/1) and Taquin Du Seuil (16/1,) who are all being aimed at the Gold Cup. I think Dynaste (6/1) might well join them.
The Champion Chase was so weak last season, that it sucked a few horses out of the Ryanair as connections thought they might as well chance their arms in the championship event. Uxizandre (12/1) is in the same yard as Balder Succes but he was a good winner of the Shloer Chase over the Champion Chase course and distance recently and could end up in either.
I’d thought Ballycasey (12/1) would definitely be aimed at this but it’s interesting he’s so short in Paddy Power’s Champion Chase market. The Mullins / Ricci team also have Champagne Fever and Djakadam and so might be hoping to split them between the three open Grade 1 chases.
Simonsig (9/1) remains under an injury cloud and must be a doubtful runner. God’s Own (14/1) is still a novice and has options at 2m and 2½m. Abbyssial (16/1) hasn’t even run over fences yet.
That leaves only Don Cossack, Johns Spirit and Hidden Cyclone at shorter than 20/1, that I think are likely to line up. Hidden Cyclone (16/1) is easiest to dismiss. He was a solid 2nd in a weak renewal last year but has fallen the last twice and looks exposed as below Grade 1 level.
Don Cossack (14/1) was a horse I doubted earlier in his career. He seems to be a much tougher individual now and has been an impressive winner of a Grade 3 and a Grade 2 so far this season. He beat Loosen My Load 5½l with Alderwood a further 1¾l away 3rd at Punchestown, giving them both 10lb, (2m7f, good to firm.) Alderwood franked the form by finishing 6l 2nd to Champagne Fever, (who received 4lb).
He then easily beat 159 rated Wonderful Charm, (who received 2lb,) by 8½l at Down Royal, (2m4f, yielding.) Connections wisely seem to have stopped trying to make a stayer out of him and this stiff 2m5f looks ideal. He did tip up in the RSA but he generally jumps well, goes on any ground and has solid claims.
The other one at the front of the market I like is Johns Spirit, (16/1). He put up a cracking effort off top weight (156) when just edged out by Caid Du Berlais, (who received 13lb), attempting back-to-back wins in the Paddy Power Gold Cup, (extended 2m4f, soft). He’s still improving and that run gives him each-way claims in a typical Ryanair. He has to show he can hold his form into the spring this time though and has a more exposed look than some of these after 15 chases.
I think the value lies with some of the longer shots. Menorah (20/1) has been rejuvenated in his last 3 runs over fences. He ran away with a listed conditions race at Sandown in the spring over 2m6f and then was a convincing winner of the Charlie Hall carrying the maximum penalty, (in theory 3m1f but apparently run over shorter), before just being outstayed by Silviniaco Conti in the Betfair Chase, (3m1f) on unsuitably soft ground. His RPRs for those races were 172, 172 and 174. Philip Hobbs is rightly aiming at the King George now, hoping for better ground than at Haydock. If he wins there he’ll have to go for the Gold Cup but the Ryanair looks his natural target and his form this season is good enough to win a typical Ryanair. He’s one to look at again after the King George.
Eduard (25/1) might be an underestimated horse. When he thrashed Valdez at Ayr in April, (2m4f, good to soft,) the consensus was Valdez was over the top. He then came out the best horse when giving Many Clouds 6lb and being beaten only 1¼l at Carlisle, Holywell 15l behind, (2m4f, soft.) That form obviously got a boost when Many Clouds won the Hennessy and it’s hard to argue that the 2m4f trip didn’t suit Many Clouds at Carlisle. 25/1 looks on the generous side.
An interesting contender is Lyreen Legend (20/1). He’s hard to win with, (1/10 over fences,) but has run stacks of good races in defeat, including when 6¾l 6th to Lord Windermere in the Gold Cup. He looked like he might win coming into the straight but even a steadily run Gold Cup proved too much of a test of stamina. I could see him emulating Albertas Run by following up a Gold Cup run by winning the Ryanair the following season. I’d want to see the route connections were taking before backing him though.
If I thought Djakadam (33/1) was a likely runner then I’d be tempted. He jumped and travelled well in the Hennessy considering his inexperience. Visually, it looked like a simple case of not getting the trip, but connections seemed to think he blew up and that staying chases are still on the agenda. He’s another that might be interesting non runner, no bet.
The one to be on though has to be Caid Du Berlais (25/1). Virtually everything went wrong in the Paddy Power on just his 4th chase start. The ground got far too soft and, conscious of his inexperience, he was ridden right round the outside and held up in a steadily run race. He looked to have no chance two out but flew up the hill to snatch the honours close home, looking much better than the margin of victory.
Many seem to be looking at the bare form of narrowly winning off 143, and concluding he’s just a smart handicapper. I think he might be much better than that. To put it in context, the Paddy Power form often stands up in the Ryanair.
The closest analogy is Imperial Commander, who was the only other horse this century to win the Paddy Power after just 3 chase starts. He won the Paddy Power off 4lb lower (139) and won that season’s Ryanair. Exotic Dancer also won off 139 after just 5 chases and was 2nd in the Gold Cup that season.
Sometimes the Paddy Power is won by a genuine handicapper, but when its won by such an inexperienced, unexposed horse, that winner is often a Grade 1 horse in disguise.
Even the placed horses in the Paddy Power are often Ryanair contenders. Last season’s Paddy Power 3rd, Hidden Cyclone, was a 3rd season chaser having his 10th start over fences, off 152. He looked fairly exposed yet was 2¼l 2nd to Dynaste in the Ryanair. Paddy Power 5th, Rajdhani Express (off 155) was 3rd home in the Ryanair.
Paul Nicholls established big guns Silviniaco Conti and Al Ferof are heading for the Gold Cup and it’s hard to imagine he’d be stepping Caid Du Berlais up in trip at this stage of his career to join them. He hasn’t looked like a 2miler so far and whilst Nicholls only has outsiders Dodging Bullets and Hinterland for the Champion Chase, I’d be surprised if Caid Du Berlais dropped back in trip. If he’s good enough I think he’s very likely to run in the Ryanair, (perhaps with Wonderful Charm also representing Nicholls.)
A mixture of better ground and a more positive ride, (now he’s more experienced,) and natural improvement, could easily see this course specialist in the Ryanair mix come March. I think he’s cracking value at 25/1 given his profile.
In the meantime, he will presumably take in the similar handicap at the track in a couple of weeks time. He was a nightmare for the handicapper to assess and, put up only 5lb to 148, he has the look of a good thing, in what’s almost always a weaker race. I want to back him for the Ryanair before he gets another chance to show what he can do.
1pt Caid Du Berlais to win the Ryanair @ 25/1