Cheltenham festival is officially on the horizon with one of the most anticipated meetings on the horse racing calendar due to begin in mid-March.
Day one of the four-day festival is scheduled to go off on Tuesday 15th March, finishing on the 18th.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of spectators gather at the famous Cheltenham racecourse to watch some of the greatest jockeys and horses in the world compete in some of the most competitive grade 1 races in the National Hunt racing calendar.
Among those horses, many of the best are trained by Irish trainers. The Irish have long been held in high regard in Horse racing in both the UK and Ireland across jumps and flat racing.
In fact, the Cheltenham Gold cup, the most prestigious of all National Hunt events, has been won by Irish trained runners in seven of the last 10 races.
Their influence is felt all throughout the sport and trainers such as Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Henry De Bromhead are often featured in the leading trainers table at the end of each National Hunt season.
Millions of pounds are bet over the course of Cheltenham festival and many punters will be backing the Irish to triumph once again this year. With tonnes of Cheltenham offers across some of the biggest sportsbooks in the country, you can sign up and back them yourself.
Let’s take a look at some of the Irish trained runners you should look out for in the festival this year.
Sir Gerhard – Willie Mullins
Starting with the very first race of the festival, Willie Mullins’ 7-year-old trainee is favoured to kick off with a win in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Mullins has an excellent record in this race, winning two of the last three meetings.
Sir Gerhard won the Champion bumper at last year’s Festival and has looked very strong with Paul Townend mounting on his two hurdling starts this year.
He won both of those by eight and six lengths respectively, despite making a mistake at Leopardstown in February.
There is a question mark over his entry in this race with Mullins also entering him into the 5F further Ballymore on day two, a race he has also had great success in. Whichever race Mullins settles on, Sir Gerhard is sure to be amongst the favourites.
Honeysuckle – Henry De Bromhead
It is fair to assume that the closer we get to race day, the shorter the price will get for Honeysuckle in the Champions Hurdle. In fact, you will struggle even now to get anything better than 1/2 on De Bromhead’s mare.
With Rachel Blackmore on the mount, Honeysuckle has gone from strength to strength since winning this same race in 2021. Her most recent effort at the Irish Champion Hurdle saw her ease to victory by 6½ lengths as a 1/5 favourite.
With Blackmore expected to mount once again, it is extremely tough to see beyond her unbeaten record remaining perfectly intact on day one. She will be beaten one day, but it is hard to believe that will be in March.
Energumene/Chacun Pour Soi – Willie Mullins
There are a number of Irish trained horses in this race with Willie Mullins laying claim to two of the top runners in Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi.
Whilst Mullins does not have form in this race, in fact he has never won it, his runners cannot be ignored.
Chacun Pour Soi has the ability to put the race to favourite Shishkin and looked impressive on a chase outing at Leopardstown, cruising to victory by 12 lengths. The veteran has a race in him on his day, however, the shorter trip may not bode well.
Energumene on the other hand will be Shishkin’s main rival. The two waged war in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot in January that saw Nicky Henderson’s horse come out on top at the line after a breathtaking finish.
The story going into this race will undoubtedly be the rivalry between the two and there is no reason that Mullins can’t go one better this time to gain revenge on the narrow favourite.
Tiger Roll – Gordon Elliott
This veteran will take to the course one final time at Cheltenham in the Cross Country Chase, with trainer Gordon Elliott confirming this will be the two-time Grand National winner’s final race before retirement.
He has won this race three times and will likely start as favourite as he bids for a fourth victory. A win would match the all-time best tally of six wins at the Cheltenham Festival.
He relishes this course and distance and smashed the competition last year by 18L despite not being at his best.
With Elliott’s team in red hot form there is a huge chance he goes out on a high on a course where he is familiar with every blade of grass.
A victory for the 12-year-old would welcome a vociferous reaction from the Cheltenham crowd and deservedly so as he closes out an incredible career.
Cheltenham has become the de facto home of Irish racing for decades and with Willie Mullins favoured as Champion Trainer at this year’s festival we can expect that to continue.
Whoever wins come post time, the famous Cheltenham Roar is sure to be deafening throughout the festival.
Hopefully this has given punters a good idea of what is to come at the most prestigious festival in UK Jumps racing.