A dozen chances will bid to take over the Ryanair Chase crown won by Cue Card in last year’s renewal and it’s the Tony Martin-trained Benefficient who can land a significant success in the latest running.
There have been no Irish victories in the race’s nine-year-history but that looks set to change with Martin’s eight-year-old primed to defeat the best of British.
Supporters of the 3/1 joint-favourite can point to last year’s Cheltenham victory in the Jewson Novices’ Chase as just one of the reasons to believe Benefficient can follow-up here.
Only one of the race’s previous nine winners hadn’t been victorious at Prestbury Park before.
And while there are a number of other market principals who’ve won at the track before, connections of our selection will be confident their charge can deliver again on the biggest stage.
Being a previous top-level winner could be another significant statistic in Benefficient’s favour. Five of the six winners since the race achieved the highest status in 2008 had won a Grade 1 event before.
That’s a feat also achieved by rivals Dynaste and Al Ferof, however the re-opposing former of the pair was kept three-and-a-quarter lengths behind Martin’s horse at last year’s Festival and the same outcome could be in store.
David Pipe’s Dynaste shares 3/1 favouritism with his rival and can undoubtedly improve on a poor King George VI showing.
The last six Ryanair winners also featured in Kempton’s Boxing Day showpiece, with 7/2 shot Al Ferof faring better than Dynaste in Surrey.
His third-place was followed by a trouncing in the Denman Chase last time out but this step down in trip could benefit the former Paddy Power Gold Cup winner, a race similar in distance to the Ryanair.
Trainer Paul Nicholls is certainly upbeat about his chances.
The Ditcheat saddler said: “The Ryanair is a great race for him and he is in seriously good order. He came out of Newbury well and I’m very happy with him.”
Ultimately, it could pay to side with those higher up in the betting given that only one previous winner has gone off at bigger than 6/1.
Benefficient’s form against Dynaste and his progressive profile fits the bill for this 2m5f chase and he looks a good bet to fly the Ryanair title over to Ireland for the first time.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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