1 Point Each-Way Josses Hill 12-1 Bet365 ( N.R.N.B.)
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On paper next Thursday’s Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival looks a cracking renewal, with the current entry of 40 including some of the best chasers from both sides of the Irish sea including Don Cossack, Road To Riches, Valseur Lido, Vautour and Vroum Vroum Mag.
Unfortunately, what looks to be potentially one of the highlights of the four-day extravaganza is unlikely to materialise as most, if not all of the horses mentioned are expected to pursue alternative targets at the festival with the possibility that the extended 2m 4f contest will lack the quality normally associated with the Grade 1 chase.
The Gigginstown-owned Don Cossack is no bigger than 4-1 for the bigger prize of the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup on the final day of the festival, while the trainers’ of Road To Riches and Valseur Lido ( Noel Meade and Willie Mullins respectively ) have both expressed a desire for their charges to compete in the longer championship contest 24 hours later.
Rich Ricci, owner of narrow King George runner-up Vautour and Vroum Vroum Mag has pretty much declared his intention to run the pair in the Gold Cup and OLBG Mares’ Hurdle respectively leaving the horse who finished thirteen lengths behind the winner Cue Card in Kempton’s Boxing Day showpiece - Al Ferof - as the likely market leader a week on Thursday.
The grey son of Dom Alco is a high-class chaser on his day and the move to new handler Dan Skelton seems to have rejuvenated the eleven-year-old to something like his best but the horses’ best days are probably behind him now and makes little appeal at the 6-1 available with Bet365 ( non-runner-no-bet ).
Henry De Bromhead’s challenger Smashing has been in great form this season winning all three starts, but will find it much tougher in this company compared to his small field victories at Gowran Park and Thurles. The Paul Nicholls-trained Vibrato Valtat has proved disappointing since winning on his seasonal reappearance at Exeter back in November but may improve for the extra trip while Village Vic, winner of two valuable handicaps on the course this season, can not be written off despite the step up in class but the value of the race may lie with the Nicky Henderson inmate Josses Hill at the 12-1 on offer with Bet365 ( non-runner-no-bet ).
Runner-up to Vautour in the 2014 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the festival the Winged Love gelding has taken his time to get to grips with the bigger obstacles, looking decidedly clumsy at times, although a number of mistakes did not stop the mount of Barry Geraghty from finishing a staying-on third behind Un De Sceaux in last year’s Arkle.
An early faller in Sandown’s Tingle Creek Chase in December, Josses Hill looked a different proposition on his most recent start when making all for a comfortable win at Kempton over the Ryanair trip and can finally fulfill his undoubted potential with a victory, in what could turn out to be a sub-standard renewal, for the Seven Barrows stable.