Albertas ripe for treble in Ryanair
SIZING Europe and Albertas Run both remain firmly in the running to defend their respective Cheltenham crowns after the entries closed for both the Champion Chase and Ryanair Chase yesterday.
Irish horses dominated last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase as Sizing Europe led home Big Zeb, Captain Cee Bee and the ill-fated Golden Silver and horses from this side of the Irish Sea again dominate in the two-mile chasing division.
A total of 19 were entered for the Champion Chase with Blazing Tempo, Forpadydeplasterer and Realt Dubh joining the leading duo of Sizing Europe and Big Zeb.
Novice chasers Al Ferof and Peddlers Cross were intriguing entries for Paul Nicholls and Donald McCain respectively, although Kauto Stone appears Nicholls' leading entry.
Explaining the inclusion of Peddlers Cross, his trainer said: “It's just a precautionary entry in the Queen Mother. We haven't made any plans for his next run yet. He's just started back cantering so we'll see how he is and go from there.”
The best of the home-trained runners last season was Somersby and he is again amongst the possible contenders.
A bigger entry of 38 was received for the Ryanair Chase, for which 14 were Irish trained.
Irish-trained Gold Cup entrants Apt Approach, Jessies Dream, Magnanimity and Quel Esprit also have the option of the Ryanair alongside Champion Chase entries Blazing Tempo, Forpadydeplasterer and Realt Dubh.
Last year’s winner, Albertas Run, will go in search of a hat-trick in this race on the penultimate day of the Festival and in doing so he could set up a rematch with the next three home last season, Kalahari King, Rubi Light and Poquelin.
The race sponsor, Michael O'Leary, has three entries via his Gigginstown House Stud – Magnanimity, Rivage D'Or and Roi Du Mee.
Also in line for a return to Cheltenham is Noble Prince, who over the same course and distance as the Ryanair claimed last season's Jewson Novice Chase at the meeting.
Paul Nolan said yesterday: “Hopefully Noble Prince will run in the Ryanair Chase. He goes for the Normans Grove Chase at Fairyhouse on January 22 and that will be his final run before he heads to Cheltenham.
“We were very pleased with him at Leopardstown. Big Zeb beat us easily in the end but it was a very good run from our horse and I think that he will improve with a faster pace,” said Nolan. “He travelled and jumped well in the Jewson last season. The Ryanair will obviously be a different gravy this time and it looks like it will be a very competitive contest. Two miles and five furlongs around Cheltenham is right up his street.”
Meanwhile, Aintree's showpiece, the John Smith's Grand National received another boost yesterday as the race got a prize money injection of £25,000, bringing the value of the race up to £975,000 (¤1.16m).
The ambition of Aintree and sponsors John Smith's to make the race the richest jump race in Europe with a prize fund of £1m came a step closer with the increase and the aim now looks to be for that to happen in time for the 2013 renewal.
Entries for the race close on the last day of this month with this being the first time the new conditions will come into effect. Following the review of the race, horses must be aged seven or above and have been placed in the first four in a chase of three miles or more before March 20, 2012 which is just days after the end of the Cheltenham Festival.