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Cheltenham: The King contender to be on for the Ryanair Chase

| 23.02.2015

Ladbrokes now have markets for all 27 races at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, but the one that’s piqued our interest is Thursday’s Ryanair Chase, which will be hotly-contested judging by Gordon Elliott runner Don Cossack’s 4/1 top price at the head of the market.

Next comes Colin Tizzard’s stable star Cue Card at 6/1, also an industry best with Ladbrokes, but the 2013 Ryanair winner missed the chance to retain his title last year through injury, and looks likely to go into the big day on a four-race losing streak since triumphing at Cheltenham two years ago.

Alan King’s Balder Succes also attracts a 6/1 quote, and is practically certain to run judging by the trainer’s effusive comments following the seven-year-old’s latest Grade 1 win, when Ma Filleule and Ballycasey (8/1 and 20/1 respectively for the Ryanair) were put to the sword with relative ease:

“I’m both relieved and thrilled. That was just what I wanted to see and probably a little better than I expected. The owners are away, but I’m sure it will be the Ryanair next.”

There’s plenty in Balder Succes’ favour, including a valuable Grade 1 win over some smart movers at the last Grand National meeting, but he has been round Cheltenham three times before, including twice at the Festival, without even finishing, never mind getting among the places.

King only goes as far to say he’s “fairly comfortable with taking him back to Cheltenham”, so Balder Succes is a tough horse to take on trust, but another of the Wiltshire-based handler’s contenders, 20/1 shot Uxizandre, looks a much better shout.

Uxizandre is bang out of form, having unseated rider Barry Geraghty in Sire De Grugy’s comeback race a couple of weeks ago, but it’s not as if he was doing any better last February when fifth of six as 5/2 joint favourite in a Warwick handicap.

He went on to chase home Taquin Du Seuil in the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham a few weeks later, landing each-way backers 33/1 place odds in second.

King said before the Newbury loss last time out that soft ground wouldn’t suit his horse, and it didn’t, so the trainer is likely to forgive that run. If it comes up good at Cheltenham, as it did last year, Uxizandre has every chance at 20/1.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Alex Fortune