Take a punt on Planet in the Ryanair Chase

Following the latest forfeit stage on Wednesday and a key trial at Ascot on Saturday, now is a good time to have a close look at the Ryanair Chase. It seems like a well established fixture at the Festival, but in fact there have only been five runnings since it was introduced when the Festival became a four day event in 2005. In fact, in the first year it was sponsored by the Daily Telegraph with Ryanair taking it over in 2006. For the past 2 seasons it’s been a Grade 1 event and deserves that status. In it’s short history it’s been only been won by the well established trainers, Nicholls (twice), Henderson, Pipe and Twiston-Davies whose Imperial Commander won last year.

The general view seems to be that this year’s renewal is really competitive but for me there are question marks about most of the main protagonists. Let’s look the major contenders in more detail. I put Poquelin on the short list for this race after he ran a good 2nd in the Paddy Power in November and he’s now the favourite. He must have a good chance especially on the likely better going but the doubt for me is that he’s not performed outside of handicap company and this is a Grade 1 Chase. He is capable of improvement though and a good performance would be no surprise. He is very short in the betting given his form with Tranquil Sea.

Next in the betting is Barbers Shop who firmed in the betting today. But he hasn’t won a race since about 1963 (well, a 5 runner race in December 2008) so I can’t have him at around 6/1. Having said that, Nicky Henderson did win this race with a similar type in Fondmort.

Then there’s Tranquil Sea who hacked up in the Paddy Power looking something special. His only run since was when coming second to Golden Silver over 2m 1f which is probably too short for him. Taking the lowest and highest prices it is hard to fathom why he is more than double the price of Poquelin at 7/1, who he beat in the Paddy Power when receiving only 2lbs. An Irish horse has yet to win this race but it’s early days in its history and Tranquil Sea was the first Irish horse for 29 years to win the Paddy Power. So reasons to oppose him but the Irish stat not one of them. The big problem is lack of any news from the Edward O’Grady yard regarding his wellbeing or target. He seems to have gone completely off the radar.

Others to consider are Schindlers Hunt but he’s another like Barbers Shop who rarely wins and he not improving at age 10. Voy Por Ustedes was a hot favourite for the race last year and he also isn’t getting any younger and has done little this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if he bounced back to grab a place but I can’t see him winning.

That leaves Planet Of Sound who is my selection. He has strong form in two races he’s contested this season. He won the Haldon Gold Cup with Twist Magic (giving 15lbs) back in third. Then at Ascot in a Grade 2 he caught Albertas Run on a going day but was a good 2nd (was giving away 6lbs) after making a mistake at the ninth. Voy Por Ustedes and Schindlers Hunt were behind in 3rd and 4th. So he has form mixed up with some really good horses, is a winner of a Graded Chase and he’s open to improvement. He has been trained specifically for this race and has a top trainer in Philip Hobbs. Finally, he has Festival form with a third in the Arkle last year.

Planet Of Sound is a value each way bet at a double figure price. Let’s make the bookmakers for not cutting his odds after Joncol’s withdrawal in mid-week by hoovering up the 10/1 with Corals, Hills or Bet365. He is favourite to win the Betfair Chase on Ascot and a win there will see his price drop to singles figures. Let’s hope he flys in on Saturday en route to winning the Ryanair.

Recommended bet: 1 point ew Planet Of Sound 10/1 – generally

Update – 19 Feb 2010: Following my comments above yesterday on the lack of news regarding Tranquil Sea, it was announced today that he will run at Naas on Sunday. Edward O’Grady stated, “He’s in good form and if all goes well he’ll head for the Ryanair Chase.”