The Ryanair Chase has quickly established as one of the highlights of The Festival since it was first run in 2005 when a fourth day was added to The Cheltenham Festival and with Sprinter Sacre looking untouchable in the Champion Chase several contenders that in any other year would be targeted at The Champion Chase could well line up instead for this grade 1 chase run over 2m5f.
There is still a lot of uncertainty as to weather several of the early entries will line up for this with 2011 Champion Chase winner Sizing Europe and today's Ascot Chase winner Cue Card both holding engagements in The Champion Chase the day before but one certain runner is Albertas Run who took this in both 2010 and 2011 and only failed narrowly to make it a hat rick in last years race being edged out by Riverside Theatre in one of the races of the entire meeting. Albertas Run has yet to run this season but turned up for last years race with only one run beforehand and should give another good account but at the age of 12 its a big ask to expect him to reclaim his crown while Riverside Theatre who always runs best fresh has been freshened up since disappointing in the King George where the heavy ground may have been the reason for his poor showing there and must head to Cheltenham with strong possibilities of repeating last years success.
Cue Card who won today's Ascot Chase proving the 2m5f trip holds no fears after failing to see out 3m in The King George and must have a leading chance with possibly the only question mark over him being that his best performances have been when allowed to dictate the race in small fields and in this fiercely competitive race that must be unlikely but is a past Cheltenham Festival winner and was 2nd to the brilliant Sprinter Sacre at last years Festival so must be a leading player here if allowed to take his chance.
Sizing Europe one of the top chasers in Ireland in recent years brings rock solid credentials to the table and has been twice successful at The Festival including winning the 2011 Champion Chase and may well have followed up last year's race if not for losing ground when having to bypass the final fence allowing Finians Rainbow to seize the advantage in the closing stages but he since that defeat he has been unbeaten winning his last four races and this must be his best chance of adding a third Festival victory to his CV as at the age of 11 it would be asking possibly to much to challenge the brilliant Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase.
Phillip Hobbs has both Wishful Thinking and Menorah a past Festival winner entered who has shown mixed form over fences but has a excellent record around Cheltenham so it would be no surprise to see him in the shake up while Wishful Thinking is being considered for other targets.
Mail De Bievre who made such a great impression on his debut over fenced in the UK when running and jumping brilliantly for such a long way in The Denman Chase before understandably getting tired after returning from a long lay off would be a fascinating contender here is allowed to take his place in the field but connections are mulling over a crack at The Champion Chase which must be mission impossible against Sprinter Sacre so this race would be a much more logical option for this exciting French import.
Other interesting entries include Grands Crus, Call The Police, Champion Court and For Non Stop and if this race turns out to be half as good as last years renewal then we are in for another treat.