Ryanair for once are spending money with an additional few pounds being added to the prize fund of the race which was announced last week. We doubt if this has had anything to do with the very strong entry of 43 horses. It goes without saying that Paul Nicholls will have a clutter of chances in the race having won it twice in the last four years, he has entered five for the race.
Among his five entries are Grade Three Boylesports.com Gold Cup victor Poquelin, there is also Grade One winner Herecomesthetruth, last season’s Listed Jewson Novices’ Handicap Chase winner Chapoturgeon, along with Takeroc and Gwanako, who was fifth in last year’s Ryanair Chase.
One horse that has been given an entry but is most likely to take his chance in the Gold Cup is Imperial Commander who won this race last year for local handler Nigel Twiston-Davies another interesting entry is Voy Por Ustedes, who went down by three lengths to the above mentioned in this race last season.
There are any number of likely winners from the entry which includes the Nicky Henderson trained Barbers Shop, who was third behind Kauto Star in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Another one of his charges included Last year’s Seasons Holidays Cheltenham Festival Queen Mother Champion Chase third Petit Robin who could step up in distance following success over two miles in the Grade Two Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park in December, while the hugely talented but fragile Jack The Giant may bid to enhance his superb record over fences. Henderson has also given an entry to last year’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle runner-up Punchestowns, who made an exciting debut over fences when taking a Grade Two novice chase at Newbury at the end of November.
The only other trainer to have tasted Ryanair Chase success is David Pipe, who sent out Our Vic to victory in 2008. The veteran chaser may be joined in this year’s race by stable-companions Pablo Du Charmil and the prolific Consigliere.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Massini’s Maguire has run excellent races on both his previous appearances at The Festival, having landed what is now the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle in 2007 and been third to Cooldine in last year’s RSA Chase. Hobbs may also be represented by last season’s The Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase third Planet Of Sound, who triumphed in the Grade Two Haldon Gold Cup on his seasonal return prior to taking second behind the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Albertas Run in a Grade Two Chase at Ascot in mid-November.
Deep Purple landed a brace of Grade Two contests at Wetherby and Huntingdon for Evan Williams before disappointing in the King George VI Chase, while the Tom George-trained Tartak may also drop back down in distance after taking seventh in the Boxing Day feature.
The 2008 Irish Independent Arkle Challenge Trophy Chase winner Tidal Bay, from the stable of Howard Johnson, may bid to improve on the fourth he took behind Imperial Commander in this race last year, while the Venetia Williams-trained Something Wells may also aim for further Festival glory, having triumphed in the Festival Plate last season.