While Silviniaco Conti’s barnstorming front-running victory in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day confirmed that he was the one to beat in the stayer’s division, it threw up a few questions about three horses in behind him.
None were disgraced out of hand, but with questions regarding stamina coming to the fore, a drop back in trip may be on the cards for Dynaste, Al Ferof and Champagne Fever.
And with the last seven Ryanair Chase winners running in the previous year’s King George, a tilt at the 2m5f contest at the Cheltenham Festival could be on the cards for this trio of talented performers.
Although David Pipe’s charge was staying on strongly at the end of the Kempton showpiece, he was never getting to the eventual winner.
And with 2014’s Ryanair Chase already adorning his race record, a crack at back-to-back victories should be on the agenda.
He clearly stays 3m, but probably not well enough to compete at the very top level, with the intermediate trips looking ideal.
In fact, he is three from five in contests over 2m4f and 2m5f, while his record is just three from 11 over longer than 3m.
With stable-mate Kings Palace waiting in the wings and looking a more suitable candidate for 2016’s big race, the Nicholshayne trainer may just bide his time for a real crack at that elusive Gold Cup.
Now nought from three over 3m+, it is time to give up the ghost with the grey at staying distances.
He was fifth in this year’s Ryanair Chase, though that was after a season fraught with problems.
And while he looks desperate for a drop in trip, it may be a more severe one than first thought.
Having picked up nine wins from 14 races shy of 2m4f, the temptation for Paul Nicholls is to drop his charge back to the minimum distance.
Nicholls told reporters: I said to [owner, John Hales] to ‘let me run him in the Champion Chase, I’d love to go back to two miles with him and let him bowl along in front’…His class gets him there, but he’s got enough pace for two miles.”
The likeable grey is an 8/1 (from 25/1) shot for the Wednesday feature at Cheltenham, should the champion trainer get his wish.
Bred to stay 3m, Willie Mullins’ Arkle runner-up was well fancied to deliver at his first crack at the distance, but the further they got up Kempton’s home straight, the more apparent it was that he wasn’t going to last out the trip.
His strong record at Cheltenham (211) says he must head to the Festival to try his hand in one race, but it looks sensible to focus on the Ryanair over the shorter distance.
A sometimes headstrong style of running could mean he burns up too much energy to challenge up the Prestbury Park hill and with another 2 1/2f to handle in the Gold Cup, it looks a step too far at this stage.
The Irish trainer has only had one horse place from six runners in the previous five runnings of the Ryanair, and the son of Stowaway looks the one to improve on that.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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