Irish trained horses to dominate Cheltenham again
We’re less than a week away from the Cheltenham Festival. From March 15-18, all eyes will be on the greatest National Hunt festival in the world. After 23 wins last year, will 2022 again see Irish-trained horses dominating the festival?
One Irish-trained horse that is fully expected to win at Cheltenham is Honeysuckle. This Henry de Bromhead runner simply doesn’t know what it’s like to lose. Two runs at Cheltenham have produced wins in the 2020 Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle and then last year, the Champion Hurdle by an impressive six-and-a-half lengths.
Honeysuckle has had three races since the 2021 Cheltenham Festival. All were Grade 1 races, and each of them ended in victory for this runner. A recent Irish Champion Hurdle win has taken Honeysuckle’s record to 14 wins out of 14 over hurdles. A 15th success and a second Champion Hurdle looks very likely on the first day of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival.
More Irish success looks on the cards in the next race on March 15. There is a strong Irish representation in the Mares’ Hurdle. The current favourite is Telmesomethinggirl, who could give de Bromhead and jockey Rachael Blackmore a quick double.
This runner won the 2021 Mares’ Hurdle, quickening clear in the final 110 yards. A bold bid will be made to retain the title this year.
Willie Mullins is never a trainer to ignore. He has four major contenders in this race, including Concertista, who has won her last couple of races, both in Grade 2. Last year nearly produced a win at the festival, losing only by a head in the Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle.
With Stormy Ireland and Grade 3 winner Burning Victory also running, Mullins has a great chance of giving Irish trained horses another winner here. They’ll probably win it anyway as Gordon Elliott runs Queens Brook, who was just behind Burning Victory last time out.
Day one looks like being a successful one for the Irish contingent. Bookmakers are certainly tipping the Irish to win a good number of races again this year.
The second day of the festival (March 16) could be good for Willie Mullins. The Irish trainer has the favourite in the first two races of the day. Sir Gerhard is strongly fancied to win the opening race, the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Last year saw this runner win the Champion Bumper, and this season has seen Sir Gerhard make the switch to hurdles and win both races, one a Grade 1 contest.
Galopin Des Champs is odds-on to win the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase for Mullins and Ireland. After winning the Martin Pipe hurdles race at the last festival, this runner has made a strong start over fences with two wins, including a Grade 1 at Leopardstown.
Another win for Irish trained horses could come in the Cross Country Chase. Tiger Roll won this last year and has had five Cheltenham successes. The two-time Grand National winner may be having his last race of an illustrious career. It’d be a highly emotional moment if the Gordon Elliott trained runner gets another Cheltenham win.
Mullins could end the day with another winner as he saddles Facile Vega in the Champion Bumper. That’s a race with many strong Irish contenders, so no change there. The chances are that it’ll be an Irish trained runner that wins this race.
One of the bankers of the festival is Aloha in Thursday’s Ryanair Chase. Another Willie Mullins runner has four wins in the last five races. The big race of the third day is the Stayers’ Hurdle, and most of the leading contenders come from Ireland. If Paisley Park can follow up his latest win, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. Flooring Porter (winner last year) and Champ are also strongly fancied.
The final day of the festival has more impressive Irish contenders. There’s a strong list of runners in the Triumph Hurdle, with Vauban (another Mullins runner) strongly fancied. Mullins has three other current favourites on the Friday card.
Can Ireland win another Cheltenham Gold Cup? A Plus Tard currently heads the market for Henry de Bromhead and was second last year to Minella Indo. De Bromhead also trains the 2021 winner, so he has a strong Irish hand here.
Other Irish contenders include Galvin, 2019 and 2020 winner Al Boum Photo, Tornado Flyer and Conflated. The odds of the Gold Cup being won by an Irish horse look pretty good. As does the 2022 festival again being dominated by Irish runners.