Zabana given green light for Ryanair Chase

Zabana and Davy Russell winning

Zabana: unseated at the Cheltenham Festival last year

 PICTURE:Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos) 

 By David Jennings 9:00AM 10 MAR 2017 

TRAINER Andy Lynch has resisted the temptation of running Zabana in the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup and the eight-year-old will instead head for the Ryanair Chase, for which he is priced between 9-1 and 16-1.

“He’s going for the Ryanair and I hope we get further this year than we did last year,” joked Lynch upon revealing the news, referring to the incident at the start of the 2016 JLT Novices’ Chase where Davy Russell ended up on the ground when the tape went up.

Zabana quickly put that disappointment behind him to land the Grade 1 Champion Novice Chase at Punchestown the following month, when he had Outlander, Sub Lieutenant and Rule The World behind him.

Although he was successful at Gowran Park in November, that was in between a tame effort in a Grade 2 at Down Royal and a seventh-placed finish in the Irish Gold Cup, and Lynch feels the Ryanair is the most suitable option.

He said on Thursday: “Davy schooled him this morning and we were very happy with him. He jumped very well. He’s as good as he’s ever been and it’s now just a case of hoping the ground will dry out. The drier it is, the better his chance. As long as the ground suits him I think we’re going over there with a great chance.”

He added: “We’d have liked to have got more experience into him to go for a Gold Cup, and the way the season has gone we just felt that the Ryanair was the best option.

“It’s a case of taking it one step at a time, he’s only eight and we can have a crack at the Gold Cup next year if we want. There’s no point rushing him.”

Road To Riches and Paul Carberry

Road To Riches: had been a 50-1 chance for the Cheltenham Gold Cup

 PICTURE:Alain Barr (racingpost.com/photos) 

No Road to the Gold Cup

There will also be no crack at the Gold Cup this year for Road To Riches, who could miss the rest of the campaign due to a setback, an “internal problem” according to trainer Noel Meade.

Road To Riches, who was also entered for the Ryanair Chase, had been backable at 50-1 for the Gold Cup, a price also available about him for the Randox Health Grand National.

The ground description at Cheltenham was amended on Thursday afternoon to good to soft, the ‘soft in places’ having been dropped after a dry day. It is expected to remain dry until the weekend, when light rain is forecast.

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