Never in the seven year history of the Ryanair Chase has the big-race sponsor Michael O'Leary looked to have a better chance of recouping his own money as with First Lieutenant today. But the Ryanair boss may end up having to console himself with a winner his PR department can at least appreciate.
For Non Stop doesn't have the profile of First Lieutenant, and has no Gold Cup aspirations either. But what he does have is an attractive price, and the sort of progressive profile that makes him a value bet to oblige at a decent SP.
Noel Fehily came up just short on Rock On Ruby in Tuesday's Champion Hurdle but pace-forcing tactics will be the last thing on his mind when it comes to For Non Stop.
The Nick Williams -trained horse likes to creep into contention slowly, and showed how devastating that can be at Aintree in October when routing his Old Roan opposition. He hasn't been seen since Christmas when tailed off behind Menorah but that was on desperate ground at Kempton and For Non Stop is a horse that relishes racing fresh.
He hasn't been seen since then, the Williams team are in fine form and he is a horse that has previous festival form, having run a fine race until crashing out in the 2011 Coral Cup, and finishing third to Sir Des Champs in the Jewson last year.
There are form-lines which give him ground to make up on the likes of Champion Court, Menorah and Cue Card but, crucially, the likelihood of a flat-out tempo from the start could allow Fehily to ride a stalking race that can see him pounce when it matters.
It is also a reality that most of the leading lights have question-marks hanging over them.
Will Cue Card for instance get a solo from the front with Champion Court and the race stalwart Alberta 's Run around? Can Riverside Theatre possibly repeat his heroics of last year? And in Irish terms, is First Lieutenant in the right race?
Pr eferred option
The Gigginstown team's desire to have a runner in this race is perfectly understandable, but trainer Mouse Morris has insisted throughout that the Gold Cup was his preferred option.
First Lieutenant’s class is undeniable but it is a long time since he has won. He likes genuinely good ground and Morris is convinced it is stamina rather than speed which is his strong suit. Might the short-haul option be the wrong one this time?
An 8am inspection of the cross-country course will take place this morning but hopes are high that the marathon slog will go ahead 48 hours late. Any delay will be forgotten if one of the large Irish team wins and Big Shu still looks like one that could sneak under the radar.
The handicapper has been dreading the Byrne Group Plate appearance of Ballynagour ever since the David Pipe horse sluiced up by 19 lengths on his first run out of France at Warwick last month.
There are plenty willing to risk their hard-earned on the basis that even a 20lb ratings hike won’t come close to preventing Ballynagour from following up. But at current odds any value looks to have gone.
Cantlow’s jumping hasn’t convinced enough to make him an alternative while Kapga de Cerisy looks best at Sandown. There was a time when Vino Griego looked anything but reliable, but he is a transformed character recently and has course and distance winning form. He may still be on the up.
The Pipe team have the ammunition to enjoy a significant day. Close House will relish every inch of the three miles in the Pertemps but it is Dynaste who is the Pond House standard bearer in the Jewson.
Running in this Grade Two in preference to yesterday’s RSA, the grey has been spectacular over fences but this looks a hot race. Aupcharlie has been beaten twice, but on both occasions the three mile trip looked to blame. This distance looks perfect for him.
Based on his Paddy Power effort behind Colbert Station over Christmas, Romanesco doesn't look badly treated at the weights in the Kim Muir and will have the invaluable assistance of Nina Carberry.