Sunday 5 February 2023

Ryanair Chase

The Ryanair Chase is a Grade 1 steeplechase run over 2 miles, 4 furlongs and 127 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in March. Open to horses aged five years and upwards, the race is a relatively recent addition to the Cheltenham Festival programme, having been inaugurated in 2005, when the Festival was extended from three days to four. The Ryanair Chase can be considered a replacement for the Cathcart Challenge Trophy, which was run for the last time in 2004, although in its final incarnation the Cathcart Challenge Trophy was restricted to steeplechasers in their first or second season. 

Officially registered as the Festival Trophy, the Ryanair Chase initially held Grade 2 status, but was promoted to Grade 1 status in 2008; the race has been sponsored by Irish budget airline Ryanair for all bar the inaugural running. Nowadays, the Ryanair Chase is the feature race on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival and is ideally suited to top-class steeplechasers who lack the speed required for the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the stamina required for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Two horses, namely Albertas Run (2010 and 2011) and Allaho (2021 and 2022), have won the Ryanair Chase twice. Willie Mullins, trainer of Allaho, also saddled Vautour (2016), Un de Sceaux (2017) and Min (2020) to victory and is the leading handler in the short history of the race. Looking ahead to the 2023 renewal of the Ryanair Chase, scheduled for 2.50pm on Thursday, March 15, Allaho could attempt an unprecedented hat-trick and is currently a short-priced favourite to do so. However, the opposition, headed by the likes of Galopin Des Champs – a desperately unlucky loser in the 2022 Turners Novices' Chase – looks certain to be strong, so adopting a waiting brief may be the best ploy.

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