We are about midway on day three of the Cheltenham Festival and it is time to try to give the bookies another hammering in the Ryanair Chase.

The Ryanair Chase requires horses that have a mixture of speed and stamina, as the distance of 2 miles and 5 furlongs is neither as stamina sapping as the Gold Cup, or as frantically fast paced as the Champion Chase.

In the past the race has attracted top class handicappers, rather than the crème de la crème of jumps racing, however with the upgrade to Grade 1 status, we are now looking at some seriously classy animals competing for the prize.

The good news for us punters is that the form stands up well, only one favourite has ever won, however the top of the market performs well, so our tip for the Ryanair Chase is not likely to be into double figure odds.

In short, the Ryanair Chase is fast becoming a race that is not too far away from the Champion Chase or Gold Cup in terms of quality, so again it represents an incredibly classy affair for us racing fans to consume. Take a look at our betting preview beneath for a few handy hints & tips on what to look for in your betting selection and then sit back and enjoy the action.

Imperial Commander at the Cheltenham Festival

Imperial Commander jumps to victory in the 2009 Ryanair Chase

Race Conditions

  • The Ryanair Chase is classed as a Grade 1 National Hunt Chase.
  • In recent years, the race has been contested at a start time of 14:00 on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, which is a Thursday.
  • Entries in the race must be aged 5 years or older. Mares will also receive a 7lb allowance.
  • The Ryanair Chase is competed over a total distance of 2 miles and 5 furlongs.
  • In 2011, the total prize money for the race was approximately £267k; the winner received £155k.
  • There are a total of 17 fences to be jumped.

Race Trends

  • Only 1 favourite has ever won the Ryanair Chase, this was Fondmont (joint favourite) in 2006.
  • 10 year olds have the best record in the race, having won 3 of 7 renewals.
  • There have only been 2 winners aged 8 or younger over the past 7 renewals.
  • The average official rating of winners of the Ryanair Chase over the past 7 years is 159.
  • Irish and French bred horses have won every renewal of the race.
  • Irish raiders have been particularly successful in the Ryanair Chase, winning 5 out of the past 7 renewals.
  • Paul Nicholls and Jonjo O’Neill share the honours as the two most successful trainers, both notching up 2 wins in 7 years.
  • Only 1 winner has had an SP of over 6/1 in the last 7 years.
  • The average SP of winners over the past 7 renewals is a touch over 6/1.
  • 5 of the previous 6 victors came from the top three in the betting market.
  • Cheltenham form is important; 7/7 winners had all previously recorded a victory at the track before.
  • Only 1 winner of the Ryanair Chase finished 1st in their previous race.
  • 5 out of 7 finished in the top three in their last race.
  • The Paddy Power Gold Cup field is a good place to look for the winner of the Ryanair Chase. 4 out of 7 winners had competed in the race as preparation.
  • 7 out of 7 had not contested more than 4 races since October.
  • Betting on the Ryanair Chase

    Favourites do not have a good record in the Ryanair Chase, although realistically we are only going off seven renewals worth of betting statistics, so I suppose it is difficult to draw a firm conclusion from this.

    The fact that there has only been one winner going off at a price of more than 6/1 in 7 years, means that the top of the betting market must be respected. This coupled with the fact that 5 of the last 6 winners were from the top three in the betting, dictates that my tips for the Ryanair Chase will also be from these three options.
    With a strike rate of 5 out of 7 being Irish bred, I will also be paying particular attention to Irish raiders who are at the top of the betting market.

    In terms of a trial race to guide us with some early form, The Paddy Power Gold Cup is a great place to start, seeing 4 out of 7 winners go on to win the Ryanair Chase. Taking place in November, the Paddy Power Gold Cup is at Cheltenham and over a total distance of 2 miles and 4 furlongs, so really the credentials needed to win this race are also a great measure for those horses that will also go on to run well in the Ryanair Chase.

    I will personally be looking at a nine or ten year old as the ideal selection for my tip to win the race and I would certainly recommend having a good and genuine reason to back a horse that is eight years old or younger.

    The interesting thing about the Ryanair Chase is that fantastic form coming into the race does not seem to be a massively contributing factor to finding the eventual winner. Yes, 5 out of the last 7 finished the top three last time out, but only 1 winner finished first in their previous start. So, perhaps look for a minimum of a top three finish last time out to guide you in your final selection.
    For the 2012 Cheltenham Festival the leading offers are: Bet365 £200 free bets, BetVictor £25 free bet, and Stan James £150 free bets.

    Michael O'Leary - CEO of Ryanair

    Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, in attendance at the Ryanair Chase.

    History of the Race

    It’s not quite the 3 miles plus of the Gold Cup and it’s a bit more than the 2 miles of the Champion Chase, what is it? It’s the Ryanair Chase of course, the race that sits within a somewhat specialist distance of 2 miles 5 furlongs.

    The history of the Ryanair Chase only goes back seven years, so we are somewhat limited in terms of looking back over realms of historical incidents and famous races. The race was started in 2005, when the Cheltenham Festival added a fourth day to the already fantastic three-day festival.

    If we dig a bit deeper, the roots of the race go back to an event known as The Cathcart Challenge Cup. The Cathcart Challenge Cup was previously established at the Cheltenham Festival in 1938 and was last run in 2004. In 2005 the Daily Telegraph sponsored the race, however since 2006 Mr Michael O’Leary, the slightly eccentric and often maverick CEO of Ryanair has stepped in to sponsor proceedings.

    So why The Cathcart Cup? The race was named after Mr Fred Cathcart, who was chairman and clerk of Cheltenham racecourse between 1908 to 1934.

    The name of the race minus any commercial sponsors is actually now The Festival Trophy, however naturally the Ryanair Chase is what the race is more commonly known as.

    The Cathcart Challenge Cup was a grade 2 race, so there is the first difference between that and the modern day grade 1 equivalent, The Ryanair Chase. From 1938 the race was only allowed to accept entrants that were first or second season chasers, whereas the modern day event now accepts horses aged five years and upward. Essentially the race has been changed from a novices chase to one that attracts horses of any experience, that are usually just below Gold Cup or Champion Chase standard.

    The purse for the last ever Cathcart Cup in 2004 was £80k in total, with first place receiving circa £46,400. The increase in prize money to a total of £267k (2011) and the elevation to grade 1 status has made the race a more attractive proposition for high level entries. A good example of this is the 2009 winner Imperial Commander, who went on to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2010. Realistically, Imperial Commander may not have contested The Ryanair Chase over 5 years ago, so the race has certainly grown in stature in recent years.

    The more modern races at the Cheltenham Festival often struggle to attract big name entries, so it is encouraging to see that The Ryanair Chase is starting to be known as more than just a race to fill the space left between the distances of The Gold Cup and The Champion Chase. There are now high class horses that specialise in the distance of 2 and a half miles and that may in part be thanks to the success of the Ryanair Chase at the festival.