Ryanair Chase

Registered as the Festival Trophy, the Ryanair Chase is a fairly recent addition to the Cheltenham Festival programme, having been run for the first time in 2005. The race is run over 2 miles 5 furlongs on the New Course at Cheltenham and is open to horses aged five years and upwards. Currently scheduled for the third day of the Festival, a.k.a. “St. Patrick’s Thursday”, the Ryanair Chase replaced the now defunct Cathcart Challenge Cup and was upgraded to Grade 1 status in 2008.

Despite its relatively short history, the Ryanair Chase has been won twice apiece by Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O’Neill, Nicky Henderson and David Pipe, but just one horse, Albertas Run (2010, 2011) has won the race more than once. Sir Anthony McCoy, who partnered Albertas Run to both victories and also won on Uxizandre (2015) is the leading jockey with 3 wins.

The Ryanair Chase is often won by a horse that falls just short of the standard required to win a ‘championship’ race, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup or the Champion Chase, and horses that contested, but didn’t win, the King George VI at Kempton Park on Boxing Day. The 2016 winner, Vautour, had previously been headed on the post by Cue Card in the King George VI Chase and originally intended to run in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Horses that have previously won at Cheltenham have an excellent record in the Ryanair Chase, but the race has provided slim pickings for horses trained in Ireland, with Vautour, trained by Willie Mullins, the only winner in twelve renewals.

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