The Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival faced a little criticism when it first came on board, as suggestions were made that it would take something away from the Gold Cup. However, as the race has grown it has developed into a top quality addition to the festival, and a big prize to win in its own right. People now respect this race, and in 2019 we look set to have another fantastic renewal.
The ante-post betting market for the race right now looks a lot different than the one we will see on the day, as horses are declared for other races, either over shorter or longer distances. The current race favourite is Min at a best-price of 5/1 as found by Oddschecker, though he is one of many horses who may look elsewhere, and the two-mile Queen Mother Champion Chase is the one that he may contest instead of this one.
One horse who will be going to the Ryanair is Waiting Patiently, and he will go down to the festival as one of the main hopes from the North of England. He is trained by Ruth Jefferson, who took over from her father Malcolm last year when he sadly passed away. The horse has a very apt name considering his career so far, and despite being an eight year old he has just ten runs under his belt. He has won seven of those though, and looks ready to move into top quality company which this race will give him. His best win so far came in the Ascot Chase last year, when he got the better of Cue Card in what was a very impressive win.
The original plan for the horse was to possibly go to the Gold Cup, but the yard wanted to test out his stamina with a run in the King George. He was fancied that day, but was brought down by another horse early on in the race so the yard learnt nothing. They do not want to risk his stamina, which is why the Ryanair is his intended target.
Just like Min, many of the other fancied runners in this race come from Ireland. Willie Mullins trains Min and if that horse goes for the race, he is unlikely to go on his own, with Un De Sceaux and Footpad other potential runners for the yard from Closutton. Un De Sceaux has run in this race before, winning it in 2017 before finishing second behind Balko Des Flos in 2018.
Elsewhere the Irish could have further representation in the race from Monalee and Road To Respect. While Monalee is still a possibility for the Gold Cup, it seems as though Road To Respect will head to this race instead. He is owned by Michael O’Leary which helps as he owns Ryanair the sponsors, but he also looked as though the Gold Cup trip would be a stretch for him, when he was beaten by Bellshill in the Irish equivalent.
Away from Ireland, two English trained runners that are set to be in the field are Politologue trained by Paul Nicholls and Fox Norton trained by Colin Tizzard. Fox Norton has run over many different distances during his career, but it appears as though two and a half miles is the trip for him. He is a top class horse but lacks the speed and change of gears for two miles, while lacking the stamina to run over three.
Politologue has been seen over two miles for a large part of his career, but the signs are that he stays this kind of trip, and could be considered a dark horse for the race.
The Irish look as though they are going to be strongly represented, although it is unlikely that all of the above mentioned Irish horses will run. Those trained in England should all run in the race, and of those, it is Waiting Patiently that stands out above the crowd. He deserves a change of luck in his career after struggling to get to the track as often as he should have done, and he looks to be the leading prospect for the north at the festival this year.