Cue Card heads Ryanair entry
Cue Card heads 43 entries for the Grade One Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival on March 13.
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Last year's winner of the two mile five furlong contest is around 3/1 favourite with most firms to retain his crown despite having had his last two starts over three miles in the Betfair Chase and King George VI.
Al Ferof and Dynaste both finished behind Colin Tizzard's stable star in the Kempton Grade One and have also been given the option of dropping in trip while Champion Court, who unseated at Kempton, is on track to attempt to improve on last year's fifth in this race.
First Lieutenant and Riverside Theatre finished second and fourth in March and could also return while Nicky Henderson, trainer of the latter, has also handed an entry to Hunt Ball who has yet to debut for the Lambourn handler since returning from an unsuccessful spell in America.
Willie Mullins has entered six runners with Arvika Ligeonniere, Boston Bob, Marito, Twinlight, Prince de Beauchene and Rupert Lamb all possibles in a biggest-ever Irish entry which numbers 20 and also includes King George fourth Mount Benbulben as well as the likes of Lyreen Legend and Last Instalment.
Captain Conan is another possible for the Henderson yard while Paul Nicholls has entered his novice Wonderful Charm along with Rolling Aces, Kauto Stone and the aforementioned Al Ferof.
A number of horses have entries in this contest and the Champion Chase, among them last month's Dial-A-Bet Chase winner Benefficient, whose trainer Tony Martin reported: "We will just see how he is and what the ground is looking like nearer the time before making a decision.
"Everything seems okay after Leopardstown and it was a good performance. It looked a strong race beforehand, but he always seems to run well around Leopardstown and I thought he was in really good form going there.
"He had probably done a bit too much before he ran at Wetherby and, in hindsight, it was a mistake to send him there.
"We will see how Benefficient is later in the month before deciding whether or not he will run before The Festival."
Cue Card is 5/2 favourite with Sky Bet to win the Ryanair Chase again, with Benefficient and Al Ferof next best at 7/1 and Dynaste, Captain Conan and First Lieutenant quoted at 10/1. That means all of the six top runners in the betting have alternative engagements at the Festival, having also been entered in the Champion Chase, the Gold Cup or both.
Ryanair Chase: Sky Bet prices: 5/2 Cue Card, 7/1 Benefficient, Al Ferof, 10/1 Dynaste, Captain Conan, First Lieutenant, 12/1 Marito, 14/1 Champion Court, Arvika Ligeonniere, 16/1 Bar