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Off The Fence: Ryanair tips as Allaho absence leaves race wide open

Both Barry Geraghty and Tony Keenan expect Saturday’s Ascot Chase, live on Sky Sports Racing, to offer major clues for the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham next month.

On Monday, long-time Ryanair favourite and two-time winner of the race Allaho was ruled out of the Festival this year after an abdominal bleed, leaving the Grade One feature on day three of the meeting wide open.

Many of those now competing at the top of the market – including Shishkin, Fakir D’oudairies and Pic D’orhy – head to Ascot this weekend, while another key trial could come at Gowran Park on Saturday in the Red Mills Chase.

Geraghty and Keenan are both interested in runners in the yellow and black colours of Joe and Marie Donnelly, with Keenan’s selection likely to line up in Ireland.

Speaking on the latest episode of the Off The Fence podcast, Keenan said: “The Allaho news opens everything up.

“Blue Lord is now favourite but, after his very impressive win at Christmas, he really dipped in form at the Dublin Racing Festival so it’s a big ask for him to bounce back.

“Saturday is going to have a big part to play in this race with Ascot and perhaps the Red Mills at Gowran Park might have a bit of a say in it.

Haut En Couleurs ridden by Paul Townend jumps the last
Image: Haut En Couleurs ridden by Paul Townend jumps the last at Leopardstown

“The horse that I’m most interested in is a horse that’s not even entered – Haut En Couleurs [Willie Mullins] – but surely they have to be thinking about supplementing the horse in light of what has happened.

“I do think what Shishkin does on Saturday is going to have to play a big part in that because it’s the same owners as Haut En Couleurs.

“Haut En Couleurs looked a different horse at Thurles with the ease with which he went through the race. We don’t know anything about his wellbeing since then but I’d say they have to be considering supplementing him for Cheltenham.”

Geraghty is keeping faith with Nicky Henderson’s star Shishkin, who will try two-mile-and-five-furlongs for the first time at Ascot as he looks to bounce back from a disappointing effort in the Tingle Creek.

“I’m going to give Shishkin another chance,” Geraghty said. “He obviously disappointed in the Tingle Creek but was in top gear all the way.

“He’s got 11 wins from 14 and it’s only been 13 months since he put in that performance last season in the Clarence House Chase against Energumene – the race of the season.

“I think the wind operation and the addition of a tongue tie is all positive so I like him for the Ryanair.”


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