“Excellent (is how to describe it in one word). The horse jumped and galloped for Rachael last year so he (Paul Townend) had huge pressure coming into this competition and after the first race he had more added pressure. But as I’ve already said Paul Townend is someone better with pressure. When there is someone leaning on his neck he excels and that is what I love about Paul he doesn’t get flustered and he gets the job done. You wouldn’t think he has any nerves at all the way he jumped out in front in that race.
“I don’t know what the form book says but 12 months ago I was standing in awe of him. This year I was suppose we were used to it now. Last year it was just an awesome performance and a very good performance this year.”
Those were the words of legendary trainer Willie Mullins after Allaho made it back-to-back victories in the Ryanair Chase. One of the highlights of the Cheltenham Festival, the Grade 1 race is a true test of a horse’s mettle, and all the five-year-old plus entries would have had some experience about them, so it is testament to Allaho for seeing off Fakir D’Oudairies and 25/1 outsider Tornado Flyer to retain his title. But with the news that he’s suffering an abdominal bleed, having not raced since last April, he will miss this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
“Having worked pleasingly this past Saturday, Allaho was found to be uncomfortable after working and was then taken to the Fethard Equine Hospital, where he was found to have suffered some sort of abdominal bleed,” a statement read at the end of February. “Although a very rare condition, this was obviously of great concern. However, following treatment his condition appears to have stabilised.
Indeed, all the pressure was on the Mullins-trained nine-year-old to get the business done once again at Prestbury Park, but now a new champion will be crowned and Allaho is denied the chance to try and run for the hat-trick. But who are the racing betting odds tipping for victory? Read on, as we assess the new favourites for this year’s Ryanair Chase.
Shishkin is a horse with plenty to prove this time around and comes in with a good chance of redemption at Cheltenham after pulling up in the Champion Chase. Nicky Henderson will take confidence in the nine-year-old’s last few runs, winning the Ascot Chase as well as a solid run in the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown. Here’s hoping the defeat to Energumene is behind him.
Another contender is Allaho’s stablemate Blue Lord. Second in the Dublin Chase at Leopardstown, it was the eight-year-old’s first defeat in his last four races and given the experience Mullins possesses in the Ryanair Chase, you’d expect him to be there or thereabouts when it comes to the finishing line. Jandil is another from the Mullins camp with plenty of experience, coming in at odds of 15/2 ahead of Fury Road and Henry de Bromhead-trained Envoi Allen.
Gordon Elliott could also throw his name in the hat with Conflated. Running in both the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup, the nine-year-old is in good form after winning the Savills Chase at the end of the year as well as a good run at Down Royal.