Cheltenham - At The Races

14:50 Cheltenham 14 Mar 2019

Ryanair Chase (Grade 1) (Registered As The Festival Trophy) (Class 1) (5YO plus)

Winner £196,945 - 12 ran

3

2m 4f 127y

Good to Soft (soft in places)

View Course Guide

Weighed In

Gary Nutting
by Gary Nutting

Published 5th February

TOP NOTCH may be capable of gaining an overdue first Cheltenham success in the Ryanair Chase.

What the Nicky Henderson-trained 8yo lacks in size he more than makes up for with heart and this looks the ideal Festival race for him despite an alternative entry in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

He has top Festival form in both disciplines - beaten a neck by stablemate Peace And Co in the 2015 Triumph Hurdle, fifth to Annie Power in the following year’s Champion Hurdle and a length second to Yorkhill in the JLT Novices’ Chase two seasons ago.

He missed last year’s intended engagement in the Ryanair after a below-par effort behind Waiting Patiently, Cue Card and Frodon in a brutally-run, top-class renewal of the Ascot Chase in testing ground.

What the Nicky Henderson-trained 8yo lacks in size he more than makes up for with heart and this looks the ideal Festival race for him despite an alternative entry in the Stayers’ Hurdle.

That race is an option again - as it is for the winner - so it will be interesting to see if Henderson sends him back to a track where he has a strong overall record or keeps him fresh for Cheltenham.

Top Notch looked better than ever when decisively beating Black Corton and Charbel at Kempton last month and it’s worth recalling he would have pushed Yorkhill even closer but for a momentum-stopping blunder two out.

Waiting Patiently was my non-runner-no-bet selection for this last year but he missed the race despite the ground being in his favour and it remains to be seen if conditions are as soft this time around.

Ruth Jefferson, like her late father Malcolm, has reiterated that Cheltenham is not the be-all and end-all it is for so many trainers and it would be no great surprise to see the gelding kept back for Aintree or Punchestown instead ground-permitting.

Min is market leader for this and second favourite for the Champion Chase, in which he was runner-up to Altior last year, and has obvious claims having returned in fine form this season with two short-priced Grade 1 wins over both trips.

Gary's Recommended Bet (scale 1-5 points):

RYANAIR CHASE (Thursday 14th March)

1pt win TOP NOTCH (9-1 bet365, 8-1 Coral, Ladbrokes, Paddy Power - all NRNB firms)

Previous Winners
Year Going Ran Winner Draw Age Weight OR Form Last run Trainer (Distance) Jockey SP Time
2018 Soft 6 Balko Des Flos 7 11 10 - F3-1232 77 days H De Bromhead (110 miles) D N Russell 8/1 5:23.30
2017 Good 8 Un De Sceaux 9 11 10 - 22-1611 47 days W P Mullins R Walsh 7/4 5:09.60
2016 Good 15 Vautour 7 11 10 - 1211-12 82 days W P Mullins R Walsh Evens 5:05.30
2015 Good 14 Uxizandre 7 11 10 - 21-418U 33 days A King (44 miles) A P McCoy 16/1 5:01.20
2014 Good 11 Dynaste 8 11 10 - 1121-25 77 days D Pipe (100 miles) T Scudamore 3/1 5:09.40
2013 Good to Soft 8 Cue Card 7 11 10 - 212-151 26 days C Tizzard (83 miles) J Tizzard 7/2 5:19.10
2012 Good 12 Riverside Theatre 8 11 10 - 5F121-1 26 days N Henderson (51 miles) B J Geraghty 7/2 5:09.60
2011 Good 11 Albertas Run 10 11 10 - 211-4FP 61 days Jonjo O'Neill (1 miles) A P McCoy 6/1 5:07.20
2010 Good to Soft 13 Albertas Run 9 11 10 - 3-P1362 26 days Jonjo O'Neill (1 miles) A P McCoy 14/1 5:11.50
2009 Good to Soft 10 Imperial Commander 8 11 10 - 3114-16 76 days N Twiston-Davies (1 miles) P Brennan 6/1 5:18.34