/ Racing

Ground will help Benefficient, says trainer Tony Martin

Updated: Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 13:04 | Comments

Tony Martin has high hopes for Benefficient in the Ryanair Chase
Tony Martin has high hopes for Benefficient in the Ryanair Chase

Trainer Tony Martin believes the drying conditions will play to the strengths of Benefficient in the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham on Thursday.

The eight-year-old won the Jewson Novices' Chase at the Festival 12 months ago and was last sighted claiming further Grade One honours at Leopardstown over Christmas.

Benefficient steps up to the intermediate distance of two miles and five furlongs in the Ryanair, but Martin believes that will not be an issue.

The County Meath handler said: "Prior to Cheltenham last year he was caught on the line over three miles at Newbury by Harry Topper and since then he has learned to relax and is a lot more settled in himself so I see no problem with the two-five.

"I think ground is a big factor, too. He's a far better horse on better ground."

Hidden Cyclone finished runner-up to Benefficient in the Paddy Power Dial-A-Bet Chase in December and occupied the same position when well beaten by Sire De Grugy in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.

His handler Shark Hanlon said: "The horse was sick last year, but he has improved with every run this year and I am delighted to see the ground is drying up in Cheltenham.

"On form, he shouldn't be far away."

The David Pipe-trained Dynaste was second to Benefficient in the Jewson, but has been in rehabilitation since a disappointing run in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on St Stephen's Day.

Pipe said: "He ran a cracking race first time out in the Betfair at Haydock, but then disappointed in the King George.

"He came back from there wrong behind, he'd pulled muscles and it took a long time to get him right, but thankfully he's in good form at present.

"He's worked nicely and has been in good order. Hopefully, he can run a good race."

Paul Nicholls says Al Ferof, the 2011 Supreme Novices' Hurdle winner and third in the King George, is "in seriously good order".

Nicholls feels the Ryanair is an ideal target for the nine-year-old grey, who took second spot behind Harry Topper in a heavy-ground Denman Chase at Newbury in February.

The Ditcheat handler said: "He was third in the King George and won well at Ascot.

"The Ryanair is a great race for him and he is in seriously good order. He came out of Newbury well and I'm very happy with him."

Nicholls also saddles the enigmatic Kauto Stone, who is capable of great things but must arrest a poor run of form this winter.

Boston Bob has been campaigned over hurdles in two starts this term, but trainer Willie Mullins believes the dual Grade One winner deserves a change in fortune over fences.

The Graham Wylie-owned nine-year-old was especially unlucky in the RSA Chase last season when he fell at the last in a position of some authority.

Mullins said: "He is a Grade One winner over hurdles and fences, but I just feel he hasn't enjoyed the best of luck over the larger obstacles.

"So, with that in mind, this season I started him off in an ordinary hurdle which he won from some useful opposition.

"We then sent him over to England to take on Big Buck's in the Cleeve Hurdle but he didn't run his race."

Ireland's challenge is bolstered by the presence of Rathlin, a prolific winner in the summer but convincingly beaten by Arvika Ligeonniere in the Tied Cottage at Punchestown in February.

Menorah was pulled up in the King George, but trainer Philip Hobbs is convinced there were extenuating circumstances that day.

He told At The Races: "He is a very good horse at his best and the reason he didn't give his running in the King George is because he had knee issues in the autumn.

"Hopefully that's now sorted and although he's been entered since the new year I didn't want to run him on heavy ground.

"In any case, he's better in the spring. Round Cheltenham, two-five is his trip."

Medermit missed nearly two years due to injury, but was a perfectly respectable fourth upon his return to action in the Betfair Ascot Chase last month.

Alan King feels the 10-year-old grey still needs to raise his game considerably to play a hand in the Ryanair.

The Barbury Castle trainer told his website: "He has been in very good form since his run at Ascot and, though he has to improve a lot from that run, he certainly has at home so, hopefully, he can translate that to the track.

"He was only narrowly beaten in this race a couple of seasons ago and he retains plenty of his ability and enthusiasm."

Connections of Rajdhani Express are also buoyed by the prospect of decent ground.

Nicky Henderson's seven-year-old has missed a large chunk of the winter because of the wet weather, with owner Robert Waley-Cohen convinced he could have slipped beneath the radar.

He said: "I'm thrilled about the ground - it should be perfect for him.

"He's been spared running this year because he doesn't go on heavy ground, but he is in very good form at home and could be the forgotten horse in the race."

Henderson has a second option in Hunt Ball, a former Festival winner and a big eyecatcher in the Ascot Chase on his first start since returning back to England from America.

Stephen Price, of owners Atlantic Equine, said: "He's in crazy-good form and looks absolutely fantastic.

"The Ascot race told us that the horse is definitely coming back to form.

"This will also tell us whether we next go for the Topham or the Grand National at Aintree."

Cantlow, who fell in a handicap chase at Cheltenham on Tuesday, had been declared at the 48-hour stage but trainer Paul Webber said: "He won't be running.

"He is pretty sore and has a puncture wound and a bit of a black eye."

User contributions and/or comments do not, unless specifically stated, represent the views of RTÉ.ie or RTÉ.
Click here for Terms of use