sports gazette

Rubi can light it up in Ryanair

The Ryanair is now a centre attraction at Cheltenham Photo by Patrick Baker
Published: 8 Mar 2012

Course form is imperative around Cheltenham but it may carry even more significance in the Ryanair Chase.

The Ryanair Chase has quickly evolved into a premier race at the festival, with the prize money on offer for the winner near doubling since the first running seven seasons ago. The race now stands firmly alongside the World Hurdle as the main attraction on Thursday.

Interestingly all previous winners of the Ryanair were and are multiple winners at Cheltenham. The two-mile-five-furlong trip around Cheltenham, the same distance as the Paddy Power Gold Cup and the December Gold Cup run earlier in the season, is something of a unique challenge. Given that, it’s no surprise that horses proven over course and distance usually do well coming back.

Our Vic was able to win the Paddy Power and the Ryanair, as was Imperial Commander and Fondmort. Thisthatandtother and Taranis both showed up well with their respective efforts in the Paddy Power and December Gold Cup before going on to glory in the Ryanair.

Speaking of course form there is no better place to start than with Albertas Run, who has won the last two renewals of this race. Jonjo O’Neill has been optimistic about the 11-year-old’s chances and with a similar sort of preparation in the lead up to the race as last season, he has another massive chance. However it could be argued another year on he may be regressing now, while the opposite will be the case for the horse that finished a close third to him then in Robbie Hennessy’s Rubi Light.

A year older and better, the now seven-year-old has to have a massive chance here. A technical glitch meant Rubi Light did not qualify as a novice last season; he had won a four-runner race in France prior to joining Robbie Hennessy, and so he deserves immense credit for the performance, on what was only his seventh run over fences.

He has improved leaps this season with a couple of top class performances. He had Sizing Europe beaten on his seasonal debut but for a freak fall at the last, he won the John Durkan in an impressive time and ran a respectable race in the Irish Hennessy, when second to Synchronised, who is still considered a big player in the Gold Cup.

His running style, in front with a high cruising speed, is well suited to this distance around Cheltenham and it could even be argued that he is still progressing given that this is still only his 12th run over fences. The one concern for the son of Network is the ground. Andrew Lynch said he would have won last year had it been softer. It’s unlikely that the ground will come up soft, but it's worth pointing out the ground has come up good to soft on the Thursday of three of the last six festivals.

Even on good ground - which it was in his race here last season - he deserves to be shorter in the betting than he is now and if it did come up any softer than good on the day, he would easily be half the price.

There are a number of dangers. Riverside Theatre commands respect for his comeback performance in the Betfair Chase at Ascot, and remember he was second in a King George. This distance looks more his cup of tea, and providing the dreaded bounce factor doesn’t set in, he is a leading player. The one worry would be that six of his eight wins came at Ascot and Kempton. Also on his only visit to Cheltenham two years ago in the Arkle, he ran a really strange race with Barry Geraghty literally standing up in his irons coming down the hill, before the horse took hold of the bit to come from nowhere for fourth place. Given the importance of course form already stated; this is a bit of a worry for Nicky Henderson’s gelding.

Medermit has had a good season, and his form in the December Gold Cup, where he was just mowed down by the late run of Quantitativeeasing, bodes well for this race. But he was a double-figure price for this before Tom Segal of the Racing Post tipped him up and at 7/1; he may be the right price instead of a value one.

Somersby may well go for the Champion Chase instead for Henrietta Knight while the form from last year’s Jewson Chase has shown up poorly this season, with the winner there Noble Prince, not exactly firing on all cylinders either.

Elsewhere, Poquelin has had a disappointing year and Realt Dubh has a lot to do on his seasonal reappearance for a trainer who isn’t exactly known for his exploits at the Festival.

At bigger prices Ferdy Murphy’s Kalahari King and the Nick Williams-trained Gauvain should be noted. The latter mentioned is a talented sort on his day and could easily outrun his current odds of 40/1. Preference however is for Kalahari King, who has had a number of near misses at the festival and was second in this race last season. He injured himself earlier in the year but Ferdy Murphy, who is one of the best in the business at getting one ready for the festival, reports him back on track now. With course form in the book, the 28/1 quoted is huge value.

Rubi Light, 5/1 generally available non-runner no bet. 11/2 with Sporting Bet.
Kalahari King, 25/1 generally available non-runner no bet. 28/1 with Sporting Bet.

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