Cheltenham: Mister Fisher can come good in Ryanair Chase

Thursday’s Parnell Mares Novice Hurdle looks to be the most open in its history

A Cheltenham Festival winner remains the prized target for Mister Fisher. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/PA Wire

A Cheltenham Festival winner remains the prized target for Mister Fisher. Photo: Alan Crowhurst/PA Wire

 

The Anglo-Irish Cheltenham ‘war’ may already be an academic exercise in terms of overall winners but the home team’s Mister Fisher can win the battle for Thursday’s Ryanair Chase.

An equally divided 14-strong field line up for what might not be anyone’s favourite Grade 1 of the week but nevertheless has a history of spectacular performances.

In 2016 Vautour was at his brilliant peak while Frodon’s memorable success under Bryony Frost in 2019 was followed last year by Min finally securing a festival victory in a scrap with Saint Calvados.

Both are back for another crack at an open contest where the enigma that is Samcro lines up for the big-race sponsor, Michael O’Leary.

Despite being pulled on his last start Min is still the apparent pick of Willie Mullins’s four runners with both Allaho and Melon also close to the top of the betting.

Imperial Aura carries the colours of Imperial Commander who won the Ryanair in 2009, a year before going on to Gold Cup glory.

Imperial Aura’s proven winning ability at the course, in a race where 13 of the last 16 victors had previously won at Cheltenham, looks to give him an edge over many of these.

That plus also applies to Mister Fisher, an easy course winner in December of the Peterborough Chase.

Having previously flopped in a big handicap, it was an encouraging return to form for Nicky Henderson’s seven-year-old who looks a progressive type.

Dominated

Henderson last won the Ryanair in 2012 with Riverside Theatre. It has largely been dominated by Irish trainers in the last five years but Mister Fisher’s peak still looks to be ahead of him.

The visitors outpoint the home team numerically in the opening Marsh Novice Chase although there’s no questioning Envoi Allen’s status as the quality of the race.

Had the unbeaten star not been switched to Henry De Bromhead just a couple of weeks ago this would have felt more about coronation than competition.

As it is there is no avoiding that question-mark, even though his new trainer has expressed his satisfaction with Envoi Allen’s progress.

The evidence of a blemish-free 11 race career to date suggests an Envoi Allen anywhere near his best should win this comfortably.

Chantry House is a good horse, capable of finishing third to Shishkin in last year’s Supreme.

Chatham Street Lad provided one of the images of the season when landing a big handicap at Cheltenham in December and would prove a hugely popular winner for Cork trainer Mick Winters.

Shan Blue can boast proven Grade 1 form from Kempton at Christmas.

They’re all good. But there is widespread hope that Envoi Allen could wind up at another level again.

Form critics might suggest the best horse he has faced to date in his career is his former stable-companion Abacadabras, and beating him by a length and a half is hardly conclusive evidence for being exceptional.

However this is a horse that keeps getting it done. It won’t be just in Ireland that plenty of fingers will be kept tightly crossed he gets it done again.

The surest thing of all in five renewals to date of the Parnell Mares Novice Hurdle is that Willie Mullins wins it.

He has scored with odds-on favourites and a 50-1 shot in Eglantine Du Seuil in 2019 but the common denominator throughout has been Mullins.

Thursday’s race looks the most open in its short history and the Closutton quartet of Gauloise, Hook Up, Glens Of Antrim and Pont Aval have a fight on their hands.

Quicker ground conditions

Gauloise has ground to make up on both Roseys Hollow and Royal Kahala from Fairyhouse last month. Quicker ground conditions can help her manage it.

The Shunter has come a long way since last summer when his run in a race at Tipperary resulted in him being suspended from racing for 60 days - and trainer Emmet Mullins fined a record €6,000 - under non-trier rules.

Now, on the back of a hurdles success at Kelso earlier this month, the well-travelled horse is in line for a £100,000 bonus should he win the Paddy Power Plate.

It’s both a big task and opportunity for claiming jockey Jordan Gainford in a race where the former Triumph Hurdle winner Farclas looks another major contender.

Cheltenham day three tips: 1.20 - Envoi Allen; 1.55 - Southfield Harvest; 2.30 - Mister Fisher; 3.05 - The Storyteller (Nap); 3.40 - Faraclas; 4.15 - Gauloise; 4.50 - Hold The Note.

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