Road To Riches, and Bryan Cooper, on the way to victory in Clonmel last year
Despite some strengthening, this remains the weakest day of the Cheltenham Festival and it also appears as though it could be the worst day at the meeting for the Irish party.
Joint top races of the day are the Ryanair Chase and the Ryanair World Hurdle and it is to the Chase that we look to for the best Irish prospects.
There is still some doubt as to what horses will actually turn up for the Ryanair Chase, but it looks as though the sponsors will be represented by Road To Riches, which was third in the Gold Cup to Coneygree a year ago.
Amazingly, the Ryanair Chase has never been won by an Irish-trained horse since it started in 2005. We’ve had loads of horses in the frame and last year Don Cossack was totally out of luck and would surely have won with a clear run over the last half-mile.
There is always the possibility of some of our Gold Cup horses being switched to the Ryanair, but Road To Riches and Gilgamboa look the most likely as we go to press. I like both horses, but Road To Riches is the highest rated and on his best form of last season he would have to be fancied to win for sponsor Michael O’Leary and trainer Noel Meade.
He has had only two runs this season, winning the Clonmel Oil Chase at Clonmel before being ‘mugged’ on the run-in by Carlingford Lough in the Irish Gold Cup at
Road To Riches would appreciate better ground, as he showed when winning a Galway Plate last year.
Enda Bolger’s Gilgamboa is also entitled to run a big race and could well beat the likes of Josses Hill and Captain Conan for the runner-up spot.
There has only been one Irish winner of the Ryanair World Hurdle in the past 20 years and that was Charles Byrne’s Solwhit in 2013. It looks as though Annie Power, Vroum Vroum Mag and Nichols Canyon will be missing the race this time and by far the leading Irish hope would be the Mouse Morris trained Alpha Des Obeaux, though Monksland would have to be given plenty of respect if he was to be given a chance.
Morris won the race back in 1990 with Trapper John and, while he is entitled to be placed, it is difficult to visualise him beating the Colin Tizzard trained Thistlecrack which has been a revelation this season.
1.30 JLT Novices’ Steeple Chase (2m 5f)
2.10 Pertemps Final (Handicap Hurdle) (3m)
2.50 Ryanair Chase (2m 5f)
3.30 Ryanair World Hurdle (3m)
4.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable H’cap Chase (2m 5f)
4.50 Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle (2m 1f)
5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Steeple Chase (3m 1 1/2f)
The Irish third day banker is the Mullins trained mare Limini in the Trull House Stud Mares Novices’ Hurdle. She has trotted up in both her Irish runs and there is huge confidence behind her for this task. Her nearest rivals could be stable companion Myska and Smart Talk.
The day will kick off with the JLT Novices’ Chase and we will have a strong team on duty here, with Mullins trained stablemates Black Hercules, Outlander and Shaneshill aided and abetted by Andy Lynch’s Zabana.
The horses to beat would appear to be Nigel Twiston-Davies’ Bristol Du Mai and Nicky Henderson’s L’Ami Serge and both are serious performers.
MICHAEL'S TOP TIPS
1.30 1 OUTLANDER, 2 Garde La Victoire, 3 Bristol Du Mai
2.10 1 CUP FINAL, 2 Taglietelle, 3 Leave At Dawn
2.50 1 VAUTOUR, 2 Road To Riches, 3 Valseur Lido
3.30 1 THISTLECRACK, 2 Alpha Des Obeaux, 3 Martello Tower
4.10 1 JOHNS SPIRIT, 2 Buckers Bridge, 3 Ballycasey
4.50 1 LIMINI (NAP), 2 Smart Talk, 3 Chocca Wocca
5.30 1 CAUSE OF CAUSES; 2 Splash Of Ginge, 3 The Giant Bolster
2.50 Road To Riches (or Valseur Lido)