A Plus Tard looks a worthy favourite to provide Irish handler Henry De Bromhead witn a second winner in the extended 2m 4f Grade 1 Ryanair Chase on day three of the Cheltenham Festival this Thursday (14:50).
The Waterford based handler saddled Balko Des Flos to land the spoils in 2018.
In A Plus Tard, he has a six-year-old who is yet to finish out of the frame in seven runs over fences – winning on four occasions.
Those successes included an ultra-impressive 16-length demolition job at this meeting 12 months ago, where he jumped his rivals ragged in the 2m 4f Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase.
A Plus tard was then far from disgraced at the Punchestown Festival when a 15 1/4 lengths third to Delta Work in the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase when finding the step up to 3m stretching his stamina to the limit.
He has had just two starts this season, shaping as if needing the run when runner-up to Ballyoisin in a Grade 2 at Navan before resuming winning ways in a Grade 1 over 2m 1f at Leopardstown when beating the very smart Chacun Pour Soi by 3 3/4 lengths.
Dublin Chase form boosted ahead of Ryanair Chase
A Plus Tard asserted on the run-in to beat Willie Mullins’ charge, who was rated 3lb his superior going into the contest, in taking fashion.
Chacun Pour Soi has also since come out and easily beat Min by just under four lengths in the Grade 1 Dublin Chase at the same venue, so that gives the form a rock solid look.
A Plus Tard is also best going left-handed according to his trainer, handles soft ground and will have now problem with the 2m 4f trip which he now tackles for the first time.
He is also open to more progression given his age, so looks to have a rock solid profile and very much the one to be on in the Ryanair Chase.
A Plus Tard is this a strong fancy and can be backed at 2/1 with BetVictor to bag a second Grade 1 career success.
Min a major player for Mullins
Champion Irish trainer Willie Mullins has won two of the last four renewals of the Ryanair Chase and saddles the Rich Ricci owned Min, who is the highest rated in the eight-runner line-up. He thus rates the main danger to A Plus Tard.
This nine-year-old has some strong Cheltenham Festival form in the book having finished runner-up to Altior in the 2016 Supreme Novices Hurdle before occupying the same position behind Nicky Henderson’s superstar in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2018.
Min was very impressive when slamming Politologue by 20 lengths in the Grade 1 Melling Chase over the 2m 4f trip of this at last year’s Aintree Grand National meeting.
He looked as good as ever on seasonal reappearance at Punchestown back in December when beating Hardline by a comfortable 2 1/4 lengths in the Grade 1 John Durkan and retaining that crown.
The son of Walk In The Park was then far from disgraced last time out when beaten just under four lengths into second by stable companion Chacun Pour Soi in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown when not jumping as fluently as usual.
On the line through the winner he has work to do to beat A Plus Tard, but Min is a tough and consistent sort who has his optimum conditions and looks sure to give it his best shot.
Mullins, the most successful trainer in the history of the Cheltenham Festival, is also a master at getting his horses primed for this big stage.
Min can be backed at 11/4 with Unibet to provide him with another winner at the four-day extravaganza.
Frodon back to defend Ryanair Chase crown
Last year’s winner Frodon has a fantastic record over course and distance having won four of his six starts over it, so commands plenty of respect
This Paul Nicholls trained eight-year-old progressed at a rate of knots last season when winning four of his five starts.
In the third of those, Frodon jumped well and made all to gamely beat Elegant Escape in the Grade 2 Cotswold Chase here on Festival Trials Day.
Frodon then enjoyed his finest hour in this when showing tremendous battling qualities to get back up under a power packed ride from regular pilot Bryony Frost to beat Aso by just over a length.
Following 327 days on the sidelines, the son of Nickname then performed well below par in his first two starts this season.
After running a lifeless race to finish a 14 3/4 lengths third to Forest Bihan in the Grade 2 Old Roan Chase at Aintree, Frodon was beaten out of sight when trailing in a 46-length third to Lostintranslation in the Grade 1 Betfair Chase at Aintree.
However, it subsequently came to light that he was suffering badly from stomach ulcers.
Following treatment, Frodon bounced back to form last time out when landing the Grade 2 Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.
This Ryanair Chase renewal is far tougher and a stronger race than last year, but Frodon comes to life at this venue, so is therefore one to consider each-way at 5/1 with Betway.
Riders Onthe Storm another with each-way claims
Given his progfessive profile Riders Onthe Storm is another that looks well worth considering from an each-way punting perspective at 7/1 with Boylesports.
Since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies from Tom Taaffe, this seven-year-old has taken his form to a new level this season in winning all three of his starts for the Naunton based handler.
The last of those victories came at Ascot in dramatic fashion during the 2m 5f Grade 1 Betfair Ascot Chase, where many felt Riders Onthe Storm was a slightly fortunate winner.
Cyrname was sent off the 4/11 favourite to get back on the winning trail after his King George defeat, but was clearly in trouble down the back straight when Riders Onthe Storm loomed upsides pulling double.
Riders Onthe Storm then took up the running three from home and quickly shot clear.
However, 50/1 outsider Traffic Fluide then came from off the pace and was throwing down a strong challenge when taking a crashing tumble at the final fence.
Cyrname also fell heavily at the last when beaten, leaving Riders Onthe AStorm to come home by 14 lengths from Janika.
He was arguably in front far longer than ideal and appeared to be idling, so may well have had more to offer.
This race will be run at a fierce gallop as A Plus tard, Min and Frodon all like to force the pace.
That could set it up for a close to pick up the pieces and Riders Onthe Storm fits that bill.