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2.40 Ryanair Chase

Although sponsored by a leading Irish airway, the Ryanair Chase has yet to be won by an Emerald Isle raider in nine renewals of this 2m 5f contest, which provides a fantastic Grade 1 opportunity for horses caught between the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Gold Cup trips.

It partially replaced the Cathcart Chase, which was run over the same distance, but restricted to novices and second-season chasers.

That race was discontinued and replaced by two separate races; the Festival Trophy (run as the Ryanair Chase since 2006, having initially been sponsored by the Daily Telegraph) and the Jewson Novices Handicap Chase also run over this trip.

There were those who feared that the race might detract from the Queen Mother Chase or the Gold Cup. However the event has proved that there is a place at the Cheltenham Festival for a separate championship race over this distance.

In fact, not only is there currently a crop of top class two and half mile chasers, there are also a number of horses who specialise at that sort of trip around Cheltenham. Races such as the Paddy Power Gold Cup and Boylesports Gold Cup, therefore, are proving to be excellent form guides for this race.

Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O'Neill have each trained a couple victors, with Albertas Run being the only two-time winner and narrowly denied a hat-trick by Riverside Theatre in 2012.

Cheltenham Festival Thursday - 13th March 2014

1.30 JLT Novices’ Chase

2.05 Pertemps Final

2.40 Ryanair Chase

3.20 Ladbrokes World Hurdle

4.00 Byrne Group Plate

4.40 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup

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