There are 50 entries, the highest number since 2008, for the Ryanair Chase, which takes place over the intermediate distance of an extended two and a half miles.
In 2020 it was Min (Willie Mullins) who came out in front and he is one of 23 Irish-trained entries in 2021. The 10-year-old recorded the seventh G1 success of his career when making a winning seasonal return in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown in December, when he accounted for stablemates Tornado Flyer and Melon, and heads the market with most bookmakers. If successful again in 2021, Min would become just the second dual winner of the Ryanair Chase after Albertas Run, successful in 2010 and 2011.
Also engaged again this year are last year’s neck runner-up Saint Calvados (Harry Whittington), fourth to Frodon on his return to action in the G1 Ladbrokes King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day, and the third home from 2020 A Plus Tard (Henry de Bromhead), who landed the G1 Savills Chase at Leopardstown over the Festive period.
Vying with Min for favouritism at this stage is Imperial Aura (Kim Bailey). The eight-year-old is already a winner at The Festival™, having landed the Listed Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase over two and a half miles in 2020. He has picked up where he left off so far this season, beginning his campaign with victory in the Listed Colin Parker Intermediate Chase at Carlisle on 1 November and following up with a five-length victory in the G2 Chanelle Pharma 1965 Chase at Ascot 20 days’ later.
Bailey commented: “Imperial Aura is in good form and he runs on Saturday in the Silviniaco Conti Chase at Kempton.
“That race is essentially his prep run for the Cheltenham Festival where he will hopefully line up in the Ryanair Chase.
“He won at the Festival last year and I have been delighted with his performances so far this year.
“I am very happy with him and Saturday should hopefully tell us more, but Cheltenham is definitely a target for him.”
The Ryanair Chase has also been left open for leading Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase contenders Altior (Nicky Henderson) and Chacun Pour Soi (Willie Mullins) while recent Ladbrokes King George VI Chase runner-up Waiting Patiently (Ruth Jefferson) has the option of the Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase as well as the Ryanair Chase.
RYANAIR CHASE (Grade 1)
- Acapella Bourgeois (FR) 11 Slaneyville Syndicate W. P. Mullins IRE
- Al Dancer (FR) 8 Walters Plant Hire Ltd Nigel Twiston-Davies
- Allaho (FR) 7 Cheveley Park Stud W. P. Mullins IRE
- Altior (IRE) 11 Mrs Patricia Pugh Nicky Henderson
- Annamix (FR) 8 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins IRE
- A Plus Tard (FR) 7 Cheveley Park Stud Henry de Bromhead IRE
- Aso (FR) 11 The Bellamy Partnership Venetia Williams
- Balko des Flos (FR) 10 Gigginstown House Stud Henry de Bromhead IRE
- Battleoverdoyen (IRE) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
- Benatar (IRE) 9 Mr Ashley Head Gary Moore
- Caribean Boy (FR) 7 Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Nicky Henderson
- Castlebawn West (IRE) 8 Mrs Boyd,Mrs Armstrong,Exors JB Anderson W. P. Mullins IRE
- Cepage (FR) 9 The Bellamy Partnership Venetia Williams
- Chacun Pour Soi (FR) 9 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins IRE
- Chatham Street Lad (IRE) 9 Mr V. Healy Michael Winters IRE
- Chris's Dream (IRE) 9 Robcour Henry de Bromhead IRE
- Cilaos Emery (FR) 9 Luke McMahon W. P. Mullins IRE
- Cyrname (FR) 9 Mrs Johnny de la Hey Paul Nicholls
- Daly Tiger (FR) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Noel Meade IRE
- Dashel Drasher (GB) 8 Mrs B Tully and Mr R Lock Jeremy Scott
- Defi du Seuil (FR) 8 Mr John P. McManus Philip Hobbs
- Delta Work (FR) 8 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
- Easy Game (FR) 7 Mr Nick Peacock W. P. Mullins IRE
- Esprit du Large (FR) 7 Mr & Mrs William Rucker Evan Williams
- Fakir d'Oudairies (FR) 6 Mr John P. McManus Joseph Patrick O'Brien IRE
- Fanion d'Estruval (FR) 6 Mr David Wilson Venetia Williams
- Greaneteen (FR) 7 Chris Giles Paul Nicholls
- Ibleo (FR) 8 The Bellamy Partnership Venetia Williams
- Imperial Aura (IRE) 8 Imperial Racing Partnership 2016 Kim Bailey
- Itchy Feet (FR) 7 Kate & Andrew Brooks Olly Murphy
- Janika (FR) 8 Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Nicky Henderson
- Kalashnikov (IRE) 8 Mr Paul Murphy Amy Murphy
- Kemboy (FR) 9 Kemboy/Brett Graham/Ken Sharp Syndicate W. P. Mullins IRE
- Master Tommytucker (GB) 10 Mr A. G. Fear Paul Nicholls
- Melon (GB) 9 Mrs J. Donnelly W. P. Mullins IRE
- Midnight Shadow (GB) 8 Mrs Aafke Clarke Sue Smith
- Min (FR) 10 Mrs S. Ricci W. P. Mullins IRE
- Mister Fisher (IRE) 7 James and Jean Potter Nicky Henderson
- Presenting Percy (GB) 10 Philip J. Reynolds Gordon Elliott IRE
- Real Steel (FR) 8 Mrs Kathy Stuart&Sullivan Bloodstock Ltd Paul Nicholls
- Riders Onthe Storm (IRE) 8 Carl Hinchy and Mark Scott Nigel Twiston-Davies
- Saint Calvados (FR) 8 Kate & Andrew Brooks Harry Whittington
- Samcro (IRE) 9 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
- Shattered Love (IRE) 10 Gigginstown House Stud Gordon Elliott IRE
- Simply The Betts (IRE) 8 Kate & Andrew Brooks Harry Whittington
- Sizing Pottsie (FR) 7 Ann & Alan Potts Limited Mrs J. Harrington IRE
- Terrefort (FR) 8 Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Nicky Henderson
- Top Notch (FR) 10 Mr Simon Munir & Mr Isaac Souede Nicky Henderson
- Tornado Flyer (IRE) 8 T. F. P. W. P. Mullins IRE
- Waiting Patiently (IRE) 10 Mr Richard Collins Ruth Jefferson