THE Cheltenham Festival promises to be as exciting as ever with the greatest show on turf beginning tomorrow.
The meeting took place behind closed doors last season due to the pandemic but the crowds are back. Expect the 60,000 spectators to get the meeting underway with great gusto and the famous Cheltenham roar which greets the start of the opening race.
Ireland won a staggering 23 races last season and the English total of five winners was a real embarrassment for the hosts. Rachael Blackmore broke through the glass ceiling last season by becoming leading rider at the festival with six winners and winning the Champion Hurdle with the unbeaten mare Honeysuckle.
The golden couple of jump racing are odds-on favourites to reclaim the Champion Hurdle Title in the day one feature race.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the feature race of the week and what a race we have in prospect. Blackmore and last year’s runner up A Plus Tard are disputing favouritism with Galvin and Davy Russell. The Youghal rider edged Galvin in front when these two met in a cracker in the Savills Chase over Christmas at Leopardstown.
The official distance between the pair was a short head after Russell came with a rattling late run.
Paul Townend will ride Al Boum Photo who has already won two Gold Cups and the Mullins camp have issued positive vibes about their staying chaser who is owned by Cork man Joe Donnelly.
The former bookmaker also owns Shishkin who is a real superstar and favourite for the Champion Chase which is the feature race on day two and the highlight of the week for many people.
Expect Cork jockeys Paul Townend and Davy Russell to enjoy plenty of winners as both riders will have quality rides across the week.
With Townend riding all the Willie Mullins horses and Russell riding the Gordon Elliot string expect a real east Cork battle to be crowned Champion Jockey on Friday afternoon.
Remarkably this horse is only making his seasonal debut at Cheltenham after a setback but his trainer Willie Mullins is more than capable of pulling off a surprise result.
The Champion Chase is another cracking contest with Shiskin and Energume locking horns again after their epic clash in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Townend did everything right the last day and still finished runner up against Nicky Henderson’s stable star. Of course the Willie Mullins team also have Chaqun Pour Soi who went off odds on favourite for this race last season but ran out of petrol on the famous Cheltenham Hill.
The Stayers race is the highlight on day three and has an open look about it. Flooring Porter is the defending champion and a pair of English challengers Thyme Hill and Champ will give plenty to do. Aidan Coleman and the former champion Paisley Park will have their supporters while Paul Townend and Klassical Dream are more than capable of taking this.
Other notable races from a rebel perspective include the Foxhunters Chase on the final day where the O’Sullivans will aim to regain their crown with It Came To Pass. Unfortunately, Maxine had to miss out last season as amateur riders were not permitted to ride at the meeting due to Covid restrictions.
Other Cork jockeys to keep an eye for include Jonathan Burke who is going great in England this season while young Darragh O’Keeffe is another man going places and is a real talent.
Enjoy the ride.