While we have to admit horse racing is a truly universal sport, there’s something beautiful about the Prestbury Cup and the fact everyone recognises the Irish-British rivalry is central to not just Cheltenham, but to the highest level of horse racing in general.
We’ve often taken an increased interest when there’s a British or Irish raider taking on the US dirt tracks or trying to navigate Meydan in severe heat, but the Cotswolds hosts the culmination of that rivalry and eliminates the mutual respect and common interest.
Ireland are odds-on to claim the crown this year, but who are the leading contenders for the Irish to take the cup home in 2020? Here are your six most-likely Irish-trained winners of the Cheltenham Festival.
Stop calling me a mug for tipping up the Champion Bumper given how favourites historically go in the race and just listen to me.
One of his only two racecourse defeats was a rout to Envoi Allen, who we’ll be seeing again on this list. In terms of pointer form, there isn’t a whole lot to go on with the rest, and his last two runs have been on exceptionally different ground.
Showing versatility this early in your career is a major plus and I’m happy to put him up because of it.
I understand the love-in for Honeysuckle, but I fancy connections to avoid this race and try their hand at a bang-average-looking Champion Hurdle to take advantage of the allowance. And while last year was a sensitive touch for a lot of people given her fall, she’d still be 1/100 in-play in the same situation this year – and there’s nothing to suggest she won’t be, again.
While nobody can be keen on taking odds-on this far out, there’s not a surer winner at the Festival right now than this high-class mare.
As is always the case with Gordon Elliott, he comes boasting a star-studded lineup, but for him to declare this son of Muhtathir a stable star this early in his career is worth noting.
If he produces even three-quarters of his ability in this one, he’ll hose up.
It’s also easy to forget the Champion Bumper win last year given his exploits since. But to have that in his back-pocket makes this selection even more bomb-proof. He’s the most exciting horse in training right now.
Now, the 6/4 is obviously solely based on the primary target of both Gordon and the owners being at Aintree and the warm-up race for such not being guaranteed to come in March.
There’s a suggestion they may avoid the race altogether and just give him a primer over smaller obstacles at Navan in February. But you know the story – if he goes here, he wins – so he has to make the list.
There are few horses more obviously-campaigned for a race at the Cheltenham Festival than Glenloe has been for the Kim Muir – if they can qualify him, of course.
But should he land in the race, you’ve got to feel that his runs over the distance were primers and his obvious showings of ability in-running are enough to validate his claims. Perhaps he may be just a tad underweight going into the race, too. Who’d have thought it?
Would you back against the Machine back on his favourite hunting ground? While he still holds entries for a handicap chase and the RSA, it seems unlikely they’ll want to go to three miles at the Festival, hence the shorter price here.
Formerly known as the JLT Novices’ Chase, it was often considered the ugly sister of the novice chases, but this entry should make it a festival highlight. And given the class shown at Leopardstown, you’ll struggle to hand me any novice that gets the head in front of Willie Mullins’ horse of a lifetime.