Excitement builds as Cheltenham Festival nears


Edward Brady

WELL it won’t be long until Cheltenham now and Willie Mullins is responsible for the favourites in 13 of the 28 races at the festival meeting. He’s also the hot favourite to be the leading trainer at short odds of 1/3.

I’ll give you some of his horses to look out for. Al Boum Photo (above) could win the Gold Cup again and is close to emulating Best Mate and Arkle, who both won three Gold Cups. Here’s hoping he does. Another of Mullins’ horses to watch is Chacun Pour Soi who runs in the Queen Mother’s Chase, so hopefully all goes well for him in the lead-up to Cheltenham. Allaho in the Ryanair Chase is expected to be bright and fresh for that one. Monkfish will be one of the big fancies in the Brown Advisory Novices Chase and is one that many of the Irish at Cheltenham will be pinning their hopes on. Sharjah could be a good each-way bet in the Champion Hurdle, given that he ran a great race in the 2020 equivalent.

Irish trainer, Gordon Elliott, has some good horses going to Cheltenham too, including Envoi Allen, who runs in the Marsh Novices Hurdle. Mount Ida could be a good each-way bet in the Kim Muir Handicap Hurdle as she should be a good price. Sir Gerhard is well fancied for the Weatherby Champions Bumper by the stable. An old favourite is The Storyteller, who has won nearly €500,000 in prize-money, which is some achievement. He’ll likely go for the Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle and then the Grand National at Aintree.

Speaking of the Grand National, Tiger Roll recently ran in the Ladbrokes Ireland Boyne Hurdle and finished last. He did, however, run well up to a point before tiring from the third last fence. Jockey, Keith Donoghue, said he was running well, but that the ground was horrible and he was just exhausted. He should fare better at Cheltenham where he goes for the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase, where the ground conditions should be a lot better.

In other news, Horse Racing Ireland boss, Brian Kavanagh, has outlined plans for the development of a floodlit all-weather track at Tipperary racecourse featuring start-up facilities for trainers. The turf track will be retained for all jump meetings and schooling. Dundalk is Ireland’s only all-weather track, so this new venture will provide a boost for Irish racing and I’m sure it will be of great benefit to the Irish trainers.

With regard to the recent Dublin Racing Festival, Kavanagh took a positive view of RTÉ’s viewing figures for the meeting. The combined figure for both days was 133,000, which was 17,000 fewer than last year, but 17,000 more than 2019. I think the fact that the Ireland vs Wales Six Nations Rugby match took place on the Sunday no doubt had an effect on the viewing figures.

Here’s hoping that we will have a great and prosperous Cheltenham Festival with lots of Irish winners and maybe the betting shops will even be open by then!