Lay bet specialist Patrick Weaver returns with four to oppose on the third day of the Cheltenham Festival where his lay of the afternoon comes in the Ryanair Chase...
"Riders Onthe Storm's rating stayed the same as the handicapper saw it as a hollow victory"
The Ryanair Chase at 14:50 has never had top billing on the third day of the Festival, despite being deeper in strength than the Paddy Power Stayers' Hurdle that follows it.
This year is a case in point. Paisley Park is the only runner in the Stayers' Hurdle rated higher than 157, yet seven of the eight in the Ryanair are rated 160-plus.
The official handicapper has Min 14/53.85, Frodon 11/26.4 and A Plus Tard 15/82.88 upwards of 4lb clear of Aso 25/126.0, Riders OntheStorm 8/19.2, Duc de Genievres 22/123 and Saint Calvados 23/124. In his opinion, all other things being equal, Min, Frodon and A Plus Tard should be the first three home.
Riders Onthe Storm would appear to have it all to do to win and is my recommended place lay.
He won a Grade One at Ascot on his most recent start but his rating stayed the same as the handicapper saw it as a hollow victory. Two of the four runners, Traffic Fluide and Cyrname, fell, which left Riders Onthe Storm to come home 14 lengths clear of Janika, who would not be the fastest in Nicky Henderson's academy of stars.
My lay has improved hugely since joining Nigel Twiston-Davies at the start of this season - and there may well be more to come. But at around 11/53.2 in the Place market for the Ryanair Chase he is a logical lay.
City to struggle on hurdles return
Using the handicapper's ratings in the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle at 15:30, there are two potential place lays worth considering.
The five of the 14 runners that are rated 150 or lower are between 25/1 and 100/1 but City Island and Emitom, which are rated just 3lb higher, are as short as 10/1.
For different reasons, there is a case to be made that neither will be placed, but there will be only a minor loss if one of the pair finishes in the first three.
City Island has been running in chases since last May and has not previously run over three miles. He would be 25/1 had he not won the Ballymore Hurdle at this meeting 12 months ago -- a run that has anchored his odds in case he recovers his form.
Emitom is six years of age, and the last man to train a horse of that age to win the Stayers Hurdle was Emitom's trainer Warren Greatrex. Another point in this one's favour is that he won his trial at Haydock conclusively. The downside is that he has never taken on this level of competition.
Paisley is impossible to fault
Paisley Park 8/111.72 has not been beaten for two years, and won this race 12 months ago. Apple's Jade 21/122 won a Grade One at Leopardstown after Christmas, beating Penhill 18.5 and Bacardys 45/146.0. With those four on our side, it is hard to make cases for either City island 18/119 or Emitom 14/115 being placed.
I recommend laying the pair at up to 5/23.5 for a Place in the Paddy Power Stayer's Hurdle.
Aba's winning run to end
I tend to leave amateur riders' handicap chases alone wherever they are staged. There is a lack of consistency in the results that makes punting more of a gamble than it need be.
However, I will break my self-imposed rule and lay Deise Aba for a place in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup at 17:30.
This willing novice has had just four runs over fences, so lacks the experience of the likes of Fingerontheswitch 24/125, which was winning over fences back in 2017, and his stablemate The Young Master 43/144 who won his first chase in 2014.
Seven-year-olds have won this event, but Any Second Now, which won 12 months ago, had nine starts over fences going into the race rather than four.
The favourite, Champagne Platinum 13/27.4, has even less chasing experience than Deise Aba 10.5. He has yet to win over fences, has been placed just once since 2018 and his stamina has to be taken on trust.
He does not tick any boxes but is owned by JP McManus who landed a gamble in the race last March - also with Derek O'Connor up. You have to have your wits about you when there are McManus runners and I have laid this type of runner to my cost in the past, so won't be opposing him.
Le Breuil is 15/28.6 for good reason. His record over the Cheltenham fences is 221, the success coming at last year's Festival. The winning jockey, Jamie Codd, was booked for this last year and his mount is a good one to have on our side.
In a competitive handicap with 24 runners, it should pay to oppose Deise Aba at up to 5/23.5 in the place market for the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup.
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Lay Riders Onthe Storm to Place in the 14:50 at 5/23.5 or shorter
Lay City Island to Place in the 15:30 at 5/23.5 or shorter
Lay Emitom to Place in the 15:30 at 5/23.5 or shorter
Lay Deise Aba in the 17:30 at 5/23.5 or shorter