If you haven't already noticed then I'm a big fan of the chases at the Cheltenham Festival and the Ryanair Chase over 2m 4f is another one of my favourites. The is an important race for the top chasers who might not get the trip in the Gold Cup so instead they come here. If I'm totally honest I thought that Vautour was a certainty to run here after failing to see out the 3m's at Kempton when beaten by Cue Card. Willie Mullins has strongly disagreed with me in numerous interviews since that race and he's certain that Vautour will see out the 3m 2f in the Gold Cup, we'll see.
Grade 1 form is important in this race. Often horses who have form over a 3m flat track turn up here and perform well and horses at the head of the market have a great record. This is race that I'm really looking forward to...
I've also previewed Vautour in the Gold Cup because I feel that's where Willie Mullins is most likely to send his horse. I've made it perfectly clear that I think that would be a massive mistake as the 3m 2f Gold Cup trip is at least a couple of furlongs to far. If Vautour did line up here then to be quite honest he would be a very short favourite and would take all the beating. This 2m 4f trip would be absolutely perfect after failing to see out the 3m trip at Kempton and he's already proved that he loves it around here. If Vautour runs here then he'll blast off and make it a good test of stamina so that would probably rule out the 2m chasers stepping up in distance.
ROAD TO RICHES
Very much like Vautour he's probably favourite to go and run in the Gold Cup. However if Road To Riches ran in the Ryanair Chase then the form book would suggest he'd have a great chance. If both Vautour and Road To Riches showed up then I'd be firmly with Willie Mullins' Vautour but Road To Riches would have to go into calculations as having a good each way chance. He'd definitely see out this 2m 4f trip as he's won over 3m in the past. He ran well in the Gold Cup last year and maybe 2m 4f on a stiff track is what Road To Riches needs.
If Vautor and Road To Riches didn't take their place here then that would leave Valseur Lido as the horse most likely to start as favourite. Willie Mullins' 7 year old is a top class chaser on his day. He comes into this race on the back of two mishaps where he fell in the King George when looking set to take 5th place. He then looked the winner in Irish Gold Cup where he was travelling all over the field before unseating Ruby Walsh at the last. He didn't put a foot wrong before the last and if the front two decide to go for the Gold Cup then Valseur Lido would be one of my main bets on Day Three.
Dan Skelton is a trainer that I really like and his horse Al Ferof is a massive danger to Valseur Lido. He's an 11 year old now but shows no signs of age diminishing his talent. He's had only two runs so far this season and although I think Dan Skelton's hopes were set on the Gold Cup I think he's finally realised that Al Ferof's best chance of winning at the Cheltenham Festival are in the Ryanair Chase. Al Ferof has won three times at Cheltenham and although that counts for a lot, I think he's probably slightly better going right handed. He ran a big race in the King George behind Cue Card and Vautour but lacked the genuine class to match both of them. I think Dan Skelton has made the right decision choosing this race over the Gold Cup and he sounds confident of a big run from Al Ferof.
This a classy second season chaser who is very lightly raced over this type of trip. Paul Nicholls suggests that this trip will suit and after watching the video's of his races so far this season I agree with him. He often finds 2m plenty sharp enough and on his only try over 2m 4f he was staying on nicely to the line behind Clarcam at Aintree. My concern would be that the 3m chasers who are dropping back in trip will blast off and try to make it a real good test of stamina, this would maybe catch Vibrato Valtat out.