Defending champion Min heads Mullins’ team in Ryanair reckoning

Willie Mullins appears to hold the key to the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham on Thursday with at least three leading candidates in Allaho, Min and Melon following the confirmation stage.

That trio was among six left in by the Closutton trainer after there were 16 acceptors.

Min took the Grade One honours 12 months ago, but he has to bounce back from a disappointing run in the Dublin Chase after making a winning seasonal debut in the John Durkan.

Melon could try to end a run of four second places at the last four Festivals, having played second fiddle in the Supreme, the Champion Hurdle twice and the Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Allaho staked his claim when winning a Grade Two contest at Thurles in January. He was third in the RSA Novices’ Chase last year and third in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle in 2019.

Chacun Pour Soir remains in the Ryanair but is set to go for the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, for which he is a short-priced favourite. Cilaos Emery and Tornado Flyer are Mullins’ other possibles.

Dual Festival winner Samcro, who is with Denise Foster while Gordon Elliott serves his suspension, is also in the line up, while Henry de Bromhead’s Chris’s Dream and Fakir D’Oudairies from Joseph O’Brien’s yard complete the Irish interest.

Leading the home defence is Kim Bailey’s Imperial Aura, a winner at the Festival last year. However, he blotted his copybook at Kempton last time when unseating his rider at the second fence.

Jeremy Scott has left in Betfair Ascot Chase victor Dashel Drasher while Nicky Henderson’s Peterborough Chase scorer Mister Fisher and Saint Calvados, runner-up in this race last year, are among others in the mix.

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