Allaho dominates for Ryanair Chase double
Allaho ran his rivals into the ground to become only the second horse to claim successive victories in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham.
A 12-length winner 12 months ago, the Cheveley Park Stud-owned gelding was even more impressive as he emulated Albertas Run, the only previous dual winner in 2010 and 2011.
The eight-year-old, trained by Willie Mullins, made most of the running last year but led all the way this time as he showed his superiority with an imperious performance.
Allaho (4-7 favourite) had Eldorado Allen for company in the early stages with Shan Blue close up until Paul Townend began to turn the screw from four out. The pack tried to close but when it looked like the race would be on, Allaho kicked clear.
Conflated fell at the second-last fence when holding place chances, leaving Janidil to give Mullins a one-two but he was 14 lengths behind the easy winner, whose only mistake came at the final fence. Eldorado Allen was three-quarters of a length away in third.
Mullins and Townend had been luckless in the opening event of the day when Galopin Des Champs fell at the last with the race at his mercy, but the rider was delighted to get on the scoreboard in this event, having opted to ride Min in the race last year.
He said: “Earlier is gone now. I’m OK and the horse is OK, we’ve a good horse and I was lucky in those colours a couple of years ago in the Triumph and I suppose it doesn’t make it any easier but what goes around comes around.
“It would make you wonder why I didn’t pick him (Allaho) last year wouldn’t it? He’s an animal to gallop and jump. He’s just really good. I got into a lovely rhythm on him again, it was straightforward.
“We took our time in learning about him but I think we’ve got there now. That’s what he likes doing, he’s built for it, look at the size of him. I’m delighted.”
Mullins praised Townend’s efforts in the saddle.
He said: “That was excellent. There as a lot of pressure on Paul after the way the horse jumped and galloped for Rachael (Blackmore) last year.
“There was a lot of pressure coming into this competition and after what happened in the first race there was even more added pressure, but as I always say Paul Townend is better with pressure – when there’s someone leaning on his neck, he excels.
“You wouldn’t think he had any nerves at all the way he jumped out, jumped from fence to fence and came down to the last as if it wasn’t there. That’s the mark of a champion.
“I was a nervous wreck watching. The horse was doing everything right for Paul and coming to the last I was thinking ‘here we go again’, but he got over it and jumped it well.
“Last year was exhilarating. I don’t know what the formbook says, but 12 months ago I was standing here in awe of him. This year I suppose we’re used to it.”
On future plans, Mullins added: “You know me – I like to stick what works! I’d be planning for the Ryanair again next year.
“We’ll see about Punchestown and I’m not going to make any plans for next season. I just want the horse in good form again and I’ll be all for taking the same path as we did this year.”
Joe Tizzard, assistant trainer to his father, Colin, was delighted with Eldorado Allen’s effort.
He said: “I’m chuffed to bits with him, he ran a blinder.
“I wouldn’t say we put it up to Allaho as that wasn’t the case, but we got into our own rhythm and he’s run a brilliant race.
“We didn’t drop him out and try to pick up the pieces, we did that a bit in the Arkle last year and said we wouldn’t do it again, we tried to win the race.
“He kept galloping nicely, so he can go up to three miles in the Bowl at Aintree on nice ground and the two that beat him might not be there. He’s been a good horse for us this year.
“He’s another one of ours who has run really well this week, but we haven’t managed a winner and we’ve only two outsiders to come.”