Time for Irish trainers to end Ryanair hoodoo: Cheltenham Day 3 Preview

And Alpha Des Obeaux offers value in the World Hurdle, writes Johnny Ward of the Racing Post.

Vautour looks the one to beat in the Ryanair Chase.
Vautour looks the one to beat in the Ryanair Chase.
Image: PA Wire/Press Association Images

1.30 – JLT Novices’ Chase

THIS IS A relatively new race to the festival and it is difficult to call this year.

BLACK HERCULES might be the answer. He was seemingly in command of matters when one of a few high-profile last-flight fallers under Ruby Walsh in a Grade 2 at Navan in February. Generally, he jumps extremely well.

Stablemate Outlander, like Black Hercules, laboured at the meeting last year. However, he is unbeaten over fences and this looks like his ideal distance.

The Philip Hobbs-trained Garde La Victoire has a lot of class and has plenty going for him too.

2.10 – Pertemps Final Hurdle

Cheltenham Races - The Open - Paddy Power Gold Cup Day Leave At Dawn, ridden by Barry Geraghty (centre, white cap), runs in the Pertemps Final Hurdle today. Source: Tim Goode

Trainer Charles Byrnes has a good record at the Cheltenham festival and LEAVE AT DAWN is set to be a popular bet in this contest.

He gained experience of the track when cruising to victory here in November. To earn a spot in this race, he needed to finish in the first six in a qualifier, which he did at Leopardstown at Christmas.

Another qualifier winner, Missed Approach, is sure to be well-tuned for this by trainer Warren Greatrex. Unusually for an event as demanding as this, he is only having his fifth run.

2.50 – Ryanair Chase

Willie Mullins' Vautour will draw plenty of interest in the Ryanair Chase. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Curiously, not only has Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown never won the Ryanair Chase: no Irish trainer has. Considering this Grade 1 is now 11 years old, an Irish victory seems overdue.

Overdue, too, is a Gigginstown win and Road To Riches makes plenty of appeal. He was third in the Gold Cup last year when the ground probably got a little too soft.

However, VAUTOUR, rerouted to this race only on Tuesday, and looks the class act. He won the JLT here last season and will be very difficult to beat at a venue he loves.

3.30 – World Hurdle

Thistlecrack could be the “banker” of the meeting for many in this event. He has been faultless this season. His three wins were achieved by six lengths, eight lengths and 12 lengths; crucially, he put any reservations about his liking for the course behind him when scoring easily last time.

Last April at Aintree, Thistlecrack and ALPHA DES OBEAUX met for the only time. There was not much in it between the pair when the Mouse Morris-trained horse fell at the last. He is improving nicely this season and makes considerable each-way appeal.

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Alpha Des Obeaux fell at the last at Aintree. Source: Martin Rickett

Last year’s winner Cole Harden will appreciate the drying ground.

4.10 – Brown Advisory Plate Handicap Chase

If the stats are a guide, the Irish have virtually no chance in this, so it is probably best to concentrate on the British runners. That said, the Colm Murphy-trained Empire Of Dirt could be competitive. He is going the right way.

JOHNS SPIRIT may provide Jonjo O’Neill with another winner this week. His rating of 145 is considerably lower than what it was and he has probably been prepared for this race, with the ground in his favour. He can likely be forgiven some modest efforts this season.

4.50 – Mares Novices’ Hurdle

This is the first running of this race. Since the mares’ hurdle was introduced to the festival, Willie Mullins has won it all but once. He holds the key to this equivalent race for novices, with the “good thing of the week”, LIMINI.

Willie Mullins Stable Visit - Closutton Limini has a serious engine. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Limini was a smart sort in France in Flat races. Her jumping has not been bullet-proof so far in Ireland but she has a serious engine and her form looks much the best here. Ruby Walsh rides for the first time and she has a massive reputation.

The danger — if there is one — could be Smart Talk, a tough and honest six-year-old trained by Brian Ellison. She should relish the hill.

5.30 – Kim Muir Handicap Chase

DOCTOR HARPER is deeply interesting here. While his peak hurdling run was in a three-mile handicap at the Aintree Grand National Festival in 2014, he has been kept to approximately two miles so far over fences, second or first.

He seems to jump well enough to overcome a lack of experience for a test so demanding. He should now improve stepping up in distance.

Irish horses tend to perform poorly in this race, yet Cause Of Causes has a bit going for him. He was second in the race two years ago and won at the festival last year. Jamie Codd will ride.

(C) Racing Post 2016

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Johnny Ward

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