Established in 2005 when the Cheltenham Festival was extended to four days, the Ryanair Chase (2.50) has been reasonably punter-friendly with Uxizandre (2015) and Albertas Run (2010) the only winners priced in double figures - and I'm quite keen on market leader Un De Sceaux (Nap) which is expected to go off around 11/4 for Willie Mullins under Ruby Walsh.
If you watch the previous runnings of this 2m5f contest, you will notice that most winners were prominent or front-runners, so that should suit the selection's style although there is a slight concern that he hasn't yet raced at the distance, excluding a win over hurdles in France.
Still, though, he won the Clarence House Chase here (rearranged from Ascot) by five lengths from one of today's rivals Uxizandre, and I don't think he's necessarily a specialist around the two-mile distance.
He can tend to make the odd jumping mistake which is also a worry, but he showed class in the Tingle Creek at Sandown to battle back after a mistake, beating Sire de Grugy in a hugely exciting race.
I reckon he has Uxizandre's measure once again and it's Empire Of Dirt that is likely to trouble the selection most. Gordon Elliott's charge is also a prominent sort and was considered for the Gold Cup. Despite his age of ten, he seems to be improving still and put in one of his best performances to date when second to Sizing John in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown.
Sub Lieutenant is also worth a mention around 15/2. He beat Outlander in a Grade Two at Down Royal and the form has been franked with that horse going on to win the Lexus Chase.
In the Grade Two Mares' Novice Hurdle, Let's Dance is tipped to claim the prize and the 13/8 on offer yesterday evening seems generous. Also trained by Willie Mullins, she's looking for her fourth win in a row and I was particularly impressed with her 17-length success at Leopardstown over Slowmotion at Christmas in a Grade Three Mares' Hurdle.
Slowmotion has since won twice over fences so the form looks reasonably solid. Let's Dance also won another Grade Two at the end of January when taking on some male horses, and she seems to be a tough sort that wasn't disgraced when fourth in the Triumph Hurdle at last year's Festival.
My one concern is that Mullins said recently he thought 2m4f was her trip, so I hope she doesn't mind the step back down in distance.
Stablemate Airlie Beach can also make her presence felt.
She's yet to be beaten in one bumper and six hurdles including a Grade One, although this will be her toughest task to date and may have to settle for minor honours.
LAY OF THE DAY
Yorkhill will be popular in the opening JLT Novices' Chase and he'll no doubt end up yet another top horse from the Mullins yard. But I've a slight concern about how he tends to jump to the left and he may need another one or two races to really become polished.
This will be competitive and any mistakes will be punished so at 7/4 on the exchanges, I'm happy to be a layer today.