The Ryanair Chase takes place on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, also known as St. Patrick’s Thursday. It is a Grade 1 event, having been promoted from Grade 2 in 2008.
The third race of the day and precursor to the feature race, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, the Ryanair Chase was one of a group of races that were added to the Festival schedule when it extended from a three-day event to four in 2005.
This replaced a race that had previously been run at the Festival called the Cathcart Chase. Its registered name is the Festival Trophy but as a sponsored event it was known in 2005 as the Daily Telegraph Chase and since that time as the Ryanair Chase.
The Ryanair Chase was originally introduced along with the Jewson Novices’ Chase to stand in between the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase.
It is run over a distance of 4,225 metres (approximately 2 miles, 5 furlongs) on the New Course, and there are 17 fences.
Weight carried is 11st 9lb for five-year-old horses and 11st 10lb for six years and older, with five being the minimum age for entry into the race. Mares and fillies have the usual 7lb weight allowance.
The total purse for this prestigious chase was £275,000 in 2015, with prize money for the winner at £156,612.50. In 2015, the purse was increased to £300,000.
The record for most wins in the Ryanair Chase goes to jockey Tony McCoy, who has ridden to victory three times: twice on Albertas Run in 2010 and 2011 and once on Uxizandre in 2015. This record also makes Albertas Run the most successful horse for the race, with no other achieving more than one win.
Glory among trainers is fairly well-balanced, with four different trainers each claiming two wins. Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and David Pipe have all entered two winners, while Jonjo O’Neill takes credit for the double with Albertas Run.
The youngest horse to win the Ryanair Chase was Taranis, ridden by Ruby Walsh in 2007 aged just six.
With the Ryanair Chase still very new to the racing schedule, it can be difficult to spot key trends, but one thing that can be said for this race is that the majority of winners have been those short-odds, well-fancied entrants.
In fact, only two of the winners have started with odds longer than 6/1 – 2015’s winner Uxizandre at 16/1 and Albertas Run on the 2010 outing at 14/1. Favourites have won three times, from 10/3 joint favourite Fondmort in 2006, through to 7/2 favourite Riverside Theatre in 2012 and 3/1 favourite Dynaste in 2014.
Another young race in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, the Ryanair Chase is a fiercely-contested event that has already seen champion jockeys set the bar high.