Cheltenham tips: Here’s 3 reasons why the Irish will dominate the Festival again

Whether it's the horses, jockeys or trainers - there's no denying another dominant Irish performance is on the cards at Cheltenham 2022.

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This is your three-week warning to get all your bonus points in the bank, amass all the credit you’ve built up with a loved one and finally sort out that arse groove you’ve been meaning to work on on the couch because we’re now just three weeks from the Cheltenham Festival.

And here at Paddy Power, we’ve gone Non-Runner Money Back on all races at the Festival, so if your favourite horse is being hoored around by their trainer or has more entries than a teenage diary in high summer, you don’t need to worry should there be a late change of mind.

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Uncertainty is fairly common, even this close to the off but the one thing we can nor firmly rely upon is that Ireland are going to arrive via boat, plane or helicopter in JP’s case and walk around Gloucestershire like we run the place.

And by the end of the week, there’s a chance we’ll have more prize money than Jake Paul after a month in Vegas.

Here’s three reasons why the Irish will run riot in the Cotswolds – again.

Cheltenham-Grandstand-November-meeting

Shrewd Pilots

If you take a look at the market for Top Jockey, you’ll notice a significant trait.

Three jockeys won three or more races at the 2021 Festival – Rachael Blackmore, Paul Townend and Jack Kennedy. The year before? Barry Geraghty, Davy Russell, Paul Townend. Nico was top jockey in 2019, but of the other six jockeys to win multiple races, five were Irish. And if you want to factor in 2018, no British jockey won multiple races, while five Irish pilots went home with multiple victories.

Five of the top six in the betting are Irish. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll all ride for Irish trainers of course, or that they’ll be contributing to the looting of the greater Cheltenham region again, but it does mean that the best pilots are from my neck of the woods.

And by and large, they are there for Irish trainers. Rachael Blackmore is the hot name coming into this Festival and given she’ll sit aboard at least two favourites in Championship races, you’d be hard stuck to deny her likelihood in picking up more winners against the grain as the week progresses.

 

Cheltenham Festival

Paul Townend is the clear favourite and that’s hardly much of a shock given his relationship with Closutton, but I assure you that while the Prestbury Cup measures just a simple calculation of where winners are trained, WP would comfortably sit an Englishman or woman aboard his best mounts if he felt they were stronger.

Behind this duo sit Gordon Elliott’s Jack Kennedy and Davy Russell, with Patrick Mullins rounding out the betting. That’s five of the top six. The only British jockey in that list? Nico De Boinville.

Top Handlers

My favourite thing about the racing calendar is just how British-focused the hype horses are in early November. Everything that’s won a Grade 2 in novice company is the second coming of Christ and nothing can touch it come Cheltenham.

Until Leopardstown at Christmas, a few meetings in Naas, a handful of Irish raiders at Kempton and the like – and then the Dublin Racing Festival. The thing is – while British-trained horses pick their targets and get campaigned to avoid major clashes so they can pick up multiple pots, the Irish are over here tearing six shades of s*** out of each other and are battle-hardened come March.

Willie Mullins has won 30 races in the last five hostings of the Cheltenham Festival – a large chunk of the 78 total winners he’s had at the meeting in his decorated training career.

Gordon Elliott has 32 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name, but 26 of those have come between 2016 and 2020, averaging over five winners at the meeting in that span.

It’s the same story every year – from the early point-to-point sales right the way through to the post-DRF analysis – the Irish always emerge late because both their calendar and their training methods are designed to peak now.

And no BHA handicapper can stop them.

Clever Planning 

The margin of victory in last year’s Prestbury Cup (Ireland 23 – Britain 5) may well be the talking point that everyone took from 2021, but that trend had been coming. Britain haven’t combined to beat Ireland in terms of Festival winners since 2015, with the aggregated total; from 2016 onwards reading: Ireland 105-62 Britain.

The handicapper will duly reassess himself to try and level playing field this year as mediocre hikes on British horses throughout the campaign have suggested. Still, at least the British have the Ultima Handicap Chase on the opening day – one of just two handicaps won by the hosts last year (take a bow Vintage Clouds) , alongside Sky Pirate winning the Grand Annual for Jonjo O’Neill.

Aggregating winning distances from the 2021 Festival, Ireland won the handicaps by a combined 23 lengths.

We just know how to make the best of the hands we’re dealt and while a combination of pride and tradition holding back British pragmatism in terms of their entries and decs for Cheltenham.

Mullins and Elliott won’t make any decisions on their final targets until they walk the course on Sunday morning.

That’s why Ireland will romp home to over 20 winners again. 

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