Ryanair Chase fancies set to clash in Betfair Ascot Chase

National Hunt racing at Ascot.

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NEWS that Allaho will not attempt a third successive win in the Ryanair Chase due to injury has left the race wide open with three leading contenders clashing in the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday.

Ryanair candidates contesting Ascot’s feature race this weekend are led by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Fakir D’Oudairies who heads the market at 7-4 from Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin (2-1) and the Paul Nicholls-trained Pic D’Orhy (11-4).

The field of six is completed by Millers Bank (9-1), First Flow (16-1) and 50-1 chance Aye Right (sponsor’s odds).

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said: “The Ryanair looks very open now with confirmation that Allaho is out so Shishkin and Pic D’Orhy will be looking to lay down a marker for the Festival.”

“The big three have stood their ground and it’s set fair to be a competitive renewal of the race. Last year’s winner, Fakir D’Oudairies, has been favourite throughout and still heads the market, but he’s 7-4 from 5-4.

“Shishkin has been strong at 2-1 and punters appear keen to give him another chance now he’s stepping up in trip. Pic D’Orhy is 11-4 but has to prove he can do it in Grade 1 company.’’  

Fakir D’Oudairies was second on his return to Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs in the Grade1 John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in mid-December, before winning a Grade 2 at Thurles in January. 

“Fakir D’Oudairies is an intended runner in the Betfair Ascot Chase,” trainer Joseph O’Brien said when the entries were first revealed. “We were very pleased with how his prep went in Thurles.

“It was a very hot race and should hopefully set him up for another successful spring campaign.

“He has been around for a while and has achieved a lot already, but he is not an old horse by any means and I see no reason why he can’t have another good end to this season at least.”

The extended two-and-a-half-mile distance of the Betfair Ascot Chase is a step up in trip for multiple Grade 1 winner Shishkin.

Shiskin, a top class two-miler won successive Grade 1s at the Cheltenham Festival; landing the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle in 2020 and the 2021 Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy.

However, he failed to complete a notable hat-trick of successive Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival when pulled up in the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase last year.

The now nine-year-old was last seen out when finishing third to Edwardstone in the two-mile Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown in early December. Henderson believes he should be stepped up in trip. 

“We were all very happy with him and he is on schedule for the Betfair Ascot Chase,” the trainer said (at the race’s entry stage).

“The step up in trip is not even a question mark for me, it is an absolute necessity, and consequently we did not even enter him for the Champion Chase. 

“You would like to think that this could take you on to the Ryanair Chase [over an extended two and a half miles], although we also put him in the Gold Cup as we have come to the firm conclusion that he is a stayer, but we will see.” 

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