The legend that is Ruby Walsh is backing rising star Michael O’Sullivan as one of the jockeys to follow at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival.
Ruby and the rest of Paddy’s punting princes – Rory Delargy and Frank Hickey – reckon the 5lbs claimer from County Cork could ride his first winner at the mega March meeting to cap off a breakthrough season.
O’Sullivan scooped his maiden Grade 1 on Supreme Novices’ Hurdle prospect Marine Nationale in the Royal Bond in December before adding another top-flight success to his CV when steering Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle hopeful Good Land in the Nathaniel Lacy at this month’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Our resident jockey-turned-pundit Ruby rode a record-breaking 59 winners at the Cheltenham Festival and scooped the Top Jockey prize on 11 occasions so he knows a thing or two about riding at the four-day fiesta.
He also thinks it’s worth following the number one jockey for the yard in red-hot form, which is likely to be Paul Townend for Willie Mullins.
All three of our tipsters were asked to name their jockeys to follow at this year’s Cheltenham Festival – and you can listen to their answers on latest episode of our Cheltenham Countdown and Cheltenham Countdown Extra podcasts below!
“Michael O’Sullivan has two really good rides with Marine Nationale and Good Land as well as what he could ride in handicaps with the 5lbs claim to go with it. He would look like someone that might ride a first Festival winner.
“A jockey to keep an eye on? It’s fairly obvious, it’s what yard gets hot, that’s what riding winners at Cheltenham is all about. Who’s riding for the hottest yard? You would have to think the obvious one is Paul Townend.
“Michael O’Sullivan has done tremendously well this season. He’s young and hasn’t been seen much in the UK but he’s shown this year that he doesn’t need his claim to be riding Grade 1 winners. That 5lbs is going to be very useful.
“Paul Townend has got the choice of rides. Danny Mullins will be picking up some spares so that will be interesting to see if he can knock in a few.”
“Definitely, Michael O’Sullivan is top of your list.
“Cian Quirke is another one. Everyone will be scrambling to get him for the Martin Pipe and handicaps.
“Niall Houlihan had a winner on Trials Day with Editeur Du Gite and I think he might get another one in the big one itself! He’s still a 3lbs claimer – he obviously can’t claim in the Grade 1s – but is a fair jockey.
“Obviously, Danny Mullins is riding unbelievable at the moment.”
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