It's also a relatively new addition to the racing calendar, first introduced to the Cheltenham Festival in 2005 as a Grade 2 race.
The Ryanair Chase features 17 fences, and has become a natural progression for horses who competed in the JLT Novices Chase. It has also blooded a Cheltenham Gold Cup champion, with Imperial Commander winning the Ryanair Chase a season before taking the Gold Cup.
Ryanair Chase trends
The Ascot Chase is a popular stop on the way to the Ryanair Chase, and in the last five years two horses have won both races, while one took second at Ascot before winning at Cheltenham. On the three occasions the Ascot Chase champion hasn't won the Ryanair Chase, two were because the winning horse didn't compete at Cheltenham, while the reigning Ascot Chase champion competed in, and failed to win, the Ryanair Chase just once
The performance of the Ascot Chase champion aside, the ingredient for success in the Ryanair Chase seems to be failure. Uxizandre pulled up in his race prior to his Ryanair Chase win in 2015, while Dynaste bounced back from a 5th place finish to take his 2014 Ryanair Chase title.
Ratings tell a story of their own, with the last five winners of this race all carrying official ratings of over 160. The usefulness of this information is somewhat diluted by the fact that almost half the field can be expected to carry ratings of 160 or over in any given year.
2016 Ryanair Chase field
Vautour's declaration for the Ryanair Chase was big news, as he was pulled out of the Cheltenham Gold Cup to compete on Thursday instead. It looks a good decision, with the Ryanair Chase a more natural progression from his wins in the JLT Novices Chase last season and second place in the King George VI Chase last time out. However, his price is quite low which means there's no margin for error if you want to profit off this race.
Al Ferof was a third place finisher in the King George VI Chase back in December, and also made an unsuccessful bid in the Ryanair Chase last season. However, he has been in handy form this season - including a 40 length win over 2.5 miles in early December. Boylesports have him as high as 10/1, and considering he was third behind Vautour in the King George he's probably value for a place.
Dynaste hasn't won a race since he took the Ryanair Chase in 2014, but he's been amongst the places several times since then. More importantly he finished second behind Silviniaco Conti in this season's Ascot Chase - albeit 20 lengths behind the winner. He's not a sure thing to make the places, but considering you can get him as high as 25/1 at Boylesports he's worth considering as a place option.
A horse who could spring a surprise if he competes in the Ryanair Chase is Village Vic. He's unbeaten this season including wins in two Grade 3 handicaps at Cheltenham. Since moving from hurdles to fences he's won five of his nine starts and placed in another two. Boylesports have him at over 25/1, which makes him another decent each-way option.