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Fairyhouse Easter Sunday Preview & Selections

It was a profitable day yesterday with an 8/1 place and a 7/2 win. Today we have high quality racing at Fairyhouse for the beginning of their Irish Grand National meeting:

2:50 Fairyhouse – It’s no surprise to see that Honeysuckle is very popular in the betting here, as she had leading claims in the Mares Novices Hurdle at the Cheltenham festival before being forced to miss it through injury, and one would imagine that this has been the plan ever since it became clear that she wouldn’t make Cheltenham. She does have to face horses that she would have faced at Cheltenham – most notably Eglantine Du Seuil, who won the race under Noel Fehily, and Tintangle in 3rd. I thought that Tintangle was probably the one to take from that race. She travelled very well throughout but got checked around the last and had to switch right. She possibly lacked the tactical speed when it became time to quicken but she stayed on very well to take 3rd and looked like the extra few furlongs would suit. Another beaten Cheltenham horse that I wanted to keep an eye on was Salsaretta in the Albert Bartlett, who was held up at the back of the field but didn’t settle well off a very slow pace. She came through the field well but she wasn’t able to mount a challenge having run keenly early on. She looked like she’d just need a more strongly run race, so the drop back in trip would suit.

Now, the only reason that I’ll want to take on Honeysuckle and Eglantine Du Seuil is price (although you could argue that the latter is overpriced, as is often the case with a horse that pulled off a major shock last time out. She hadn’t run in 6 months before Cheltenham so it would be no surprise to see her improve here). At 13/2 and 12/1 respectively, I think that both Salsaretta and Tintangle are reasonably priced, and I’ll split my stakes between the two.
Salsaretta 0.5pt win 13/2 (Bet365, Skybet, BetVictor, Unibet, Coral)
Tintangle 0.5pt win 12/1 (general)

4:25 Fairyhouse – Mengli Khan, generally considered an unpredictable, up-and-down type, headed the ante post betting at 15/8 but has been joined at the top of the market by Real Steel and Voix Du Reve. Early in his hurdling career it was often said that he would be a better horse on better ground, but whether this was the case is debatable, with one of his best runs coming in last year’s Supreme Novices on a very testing surface. He has now been seen to good effect twice at Cheltenham and has also won both of his two starts at Navan, which might suggest that he is more suited to a stiffer test than Aintree would have offered him last time out. Fairyhouse’s finish is uphill, but it’s not comparable to the type of challenge that a horse encounters at Cheltenham or Navan, and one would wonder whether Mengli Khan would have been better suited to the undulations of Punchestown. He’s a horse that I’m looking forward to seeing in future on a more testing track, maybe in more testing conditions and possibly even stepping up in trip to 3 miles, but I’m not quite convinced that today’s conditions are ideal.

Winter Escape looked like an exciting prospect when taking to fences until disappointing at the Dublin Racing Festival, finishing 6 lengths behind La Bague Au Roi. The form from that race hasn’t worked out brilliantly, with La Bague Au Roi and Hardline both failing to fire next time out, and so we would have to forgive Winter Escape that run in order to side with him today. The fact that he’s back going right-handed (form of 132111 compared to 110505 going left-handed) would seem like the main reason to do so.

The most likely scenario is that Voix Du Reve will jump off in front and try to make it a case of “catch me if you can”. While this did work for him a few times earlier in the season, including in grade 2 company, his jumping has been an issue at least to some extent on every appearance to date and siding with him here might be a bit of a leap of faith. That said, the small field should play to his tactics and this has been the case in the past – his form in fields of 7 or less reads 21113F, compared to just 1 win from 11 starts in fields of 8 or more.

Cubomania also has a good record in small fields (2113141 in fields of 7 or less) but these have generally been in much less competitive contests than this one (3rd of 5 in a grade 3 and 4th of 6 in a grade 2, but the highest level at which he has won was listed). On bare form, he should find some of his competitors today to be too good (although he did beat two graded winners last time out in a listed contest at Thurles).

Real Steel didn’t appear to be up to the required standard in the JLT (and therefore in theory has 9 lengths to find with Mengli Khan) but the form from that race is working out quite well, with Lostintranslation beating Topofthegame next time out and Kildisart also winning on his next appearance. All 3 of his career wins have come at right-handed tracks, with form of 1P411 compared to F50F6 going left-handed, and this could be the key to his form. Notably, one of these wins came at Fairyhouse, making him one of only two course winners in the field (along with Mengli Khan).

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking at this race and am essentially going around in circles – there are now 4 horses practically together at the top of the market and I think that the market has it more or less right. In the past, you could narrow this race down by trying to avoid those horses which had been to Cheltenham, but this isn’t really the case anymore, with a Cheltenham winner having won the race last year and considering the fact that the race falls so far away from Cheltenham this year. I’m going to leave this alone – it should be a great race to watch regardless.

Others to watch today – in the 3:25 at Plumpton, Legal History is back out for David Pipe and Tom Scudamore. He’s not a betting prospect for me but he’ll just be interesting to watch as he looked excellent when winning at Ascot and Exeter the last twice. He’s up to 126 now and it will be interesting to see whether he can continue to defy the handicapper and turn out to be a really good horse.

Irish Grand National – this evening, I’ll be posting a full runner-by-runner guide to the Irish Grand National along with my bets. The way that I approach this race is by looking at each runner, drawing up a tissue (not the easiest task with 30 runners!) and comparing. The theory is of course that we’re not necessarily looking for the most likely winner, but for what we perceive to be the most value. While it’s likely that there will be more bets in the race tomorrow, the biggest gap between my own prices and the available odds was Auvergnat, who can still be backed at 33/1 with Coral and Sportingbet (both of whom only pay 4 places but will still offer ¼ odds unlike the bookmakers paying extra places). I’m going to have 1 point each-way.
Auvergnat 1pt e/w 33/1 (Coral, Sportingbet, ¼ odds 4 places)

Ryanair Gold Cup

It’s sometimes difficult to analyse a race at Fairyhouse based on previous renewals, as the make-up of the race can be quite different each year due to the fact that the date of the meeting varies a lot in comparison to other big meetings in the spring. The proximity of Fairyhouse’s Easter meeting to Cheltenham varies each year, and it can fall on either side of Aintree’s Grand National meeting. However, it tends to attract a few high-class Irish novice chasers, a couple of which have come from Cheltenham.

Cheltenham Last Time Out

This brings us to the first point – most years, horses run here having had their last run at the Cheltenham festival. Overall, their record has been fairly poor.

Year Horse Days Since Cheltenham Run Odds Finishing Position
2009 Golden Silver 33 days 11/2 7th
2010 Nicanor 17 days 16/1 Pulled up
2011 Noble Prince 38 days 13/8 Fell
Mikael Dhaguenet 39 days 3/1 4th
Loosen My Load 38 days 4/1 2nd
Realt Dubh 40 days 9/2 1st
2012 White Star Line 26 days 16/1 6th
Call The Police 25 days 6/1 4th
2014 Ballycasey 39 days 11/8 Fell
2015 Apache Stronghold 24 days 5/1 Fell
Valseur Lido 24 days 4/1 6th
Smashing 26 days 25/1 3rd
2016 Mckinley 12 days 14/1 4th
Outlander 10 days evens 2nd
2017 Baily Cloud 31 days 66/1 4th
Road To Respect 31 days 7/2 1st
Some Plan 33 days 20/1 6th
Yorkhill 31 days 4/7 2nd


According to Betfair SP, this table should include 3.4 winners and 7.2 total places. It actually contains 2 wins and 6 total places, so there’s just a small underperformance.

Last year, the success did come from Cheltenham runners. However, it had been over a month since the festival. If we narrow this down to years in which the race came within 30 days of the Cheltenham start, the table is shorter and shows less success:

Year Horse Days Since Cheltenham Run Odds Finishing Position
2010 Nicanor 17 days 16/1 Pulled up
2012 White Star Line 26 days 16/1 6th
Call The Police 25 days 6/1 4th
2015 Apache Stronghold 24 days 5/1 Fell
Valseur Lido 24 days 4/1 6th
Smashing 26 days 25/1 3rd
2016 Mckinley 12 days 14/1 4th
Outlander 10 days evens 2nd


If we look at these horses alone, they underperformed, but only marginally – the market would have expected 1 winner and there were none, while according the Betfair SP there should have been 3 places (there were 2).

Willie Mullins

Mullins has traditionally been the man to follow in Irish National Hunt racing at the end of the season, but this race has been an exception. In the last 10 years he has had 18 runners, with no winners and 5 places (this record doesn’t get any better if you go back further, with no winners and just 5 places from 26 runners this century).

In those last 10 races, he has failed to train a winner despite his runners accounting for 27% of the total field. On that basis, they’ve underperformed just marginally in terms of making the frame, filling 24% of the total places from 27% of the total field.

However, if we look at the horses behind these numbers we see that this underperformance is more significant than it may seem at first. Mullins trained the favourites in 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014 at 4/7, evens, 5/4 and 11/8 respectively. They finished 2nd, 2nd, 4th and fell. Whilst it seems clear that Mullins horses underperform, it’s possible that they’re also overestimated by the market – the market certainly doesn’t seem to factor in this poor record. Based on Betfair starting prices, Mullins would have been expected to train 3.7 of the last 10 winners (actual number is 0) and 8.3 horses to make the frame (actual number 5).

2018 Renewal

Footpad was due to represent Willie Mullins here, and may have been a favourite worth taking on with these two angles in mind. However, it is interesting to see that the majority of the field are either trained by Mullins (only he and Elliott are represented in the race) or ran at Cheltenham:

  1. Al Boum Photo – Willie Mullins, ran at Cheltenham
  2. Invitation Only – Willie Mullins, ran at Cheltenham
  3. Montalbano – Willie Mullins
  4. Saturnas – Willie Mullins
  5. The Storyteller – ran at Cheltenham
  6. Tombstone
  7. Tycoon Prince – ran at Cheltenham
  8. Up For Review – Willie Mullins
  9. Shattered Love – ran at Cheltenham

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