The Ryanair Chase is one of the highlights on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival. The 2m 4½f race takes place on the New Course on Thursday and the runners jump 17 fences in the Grade 1 contest.
A total of nine horses have been declared to feature this year, but unfortunately they do not include defending champion Allaho who has been forced to miss the meeting through injury. So there is a guarantee of a new name on the trophy.
Irish trainer Willie Mullins has won this race a record five times and although he will not saddle up Allaho, both Blue Lord and Janidil will represent him. Former 2m star Shishkin will feature in this contest for the first time, while Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary will be hoping Fury Road can win his own race for the Gigginstown operation.
Cheltenham 2.50 Ryanair Chase tips
Connor Whitley’s fancies for the big race are below. Scroll down to read the expert analysis behind them.
Odds correct at time of publishing and may be subject to change.
Shishkin is back to his majestic best
Last season SHISHKIN went into the Queen Mother Champion Chase as the red-hot favourite, but it did not work out for him. He was pulled up early in the 2m contest by Nico de Boinville. It later transpired the horse had a bone problem.
In what was one of the comeback stories of the season, Nicky Henderson’s runner was right back to his best last time out in the Ascot Chase (2m 5f). He not only won that race by an emphatic 16 lengths, but he beat some horses well established at that distance. It was hard to believe that was his first appearance over the trip.
There were some people urging Henderson to take his chance in the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year with his star chaser, but the Seven Barrows man always does right by his charges and he felt his best option at the Festival this year was the Ryanair Chase.
With an official rating of 174, Shishkin remains one of the highest-marked chasers in the UK and Ireland. He was successful at the Festival in 2021 in the Arkle Trophy and if he crosses the finishing line first here again he will be a very popular winner at Prestbury Park.
Perhaps next year, Henderson will decide to take his chance in the blue riband event, which would be the ultimate test for this horse.
Selection: Shishkin @ 5/6 with William Hill
Blue Lord to bounce back with a big run
The Dublin Racing Festival at Leopardstown last month produced several surprise defeats for some of the biggest stars in Ireland. Arguably the hugest upset was when BLUE LORD was turned over in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase. Willie Mullins’s runner had to settle for second place behind stablemate Gentleman De Mee.
Before that blow at Leopardstown, Blue Lord had recorded back-to-back victories to begin the season. He got off the mark for the campaign in the Grade 2 Clonmel Oil Chase (2m 4f), while during the festive period he won the Grade 1 Paddy’s Reward Club Chase by an impressive 11 lengths.
Mullins’s chaser is heading back up in distance here and he should bounce back with a much better performance than he produced in Dublin. He ran well in the Arkle Trophy in 2022 when he finished third behind Edwardstone, so he has experience of featuring at this meeting.
If Shishkin has another off day at the Festival, Blue Lord is the most likely to take advantage and provide his trainer with yet another win in this prestigious Day 3 contest.
Selection: Blue Lord @ 6/1 with William Hill