The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of national hunt horse racing in the UK. Four days in March, and a total of 28 high-quality races to enjoy, this week is the ultimate for those who love the sport. Runners from the UK & Ireland take each other on, usually with a sprinkling of contenders from France, and last season the meeting was completely dominated by the Irish.
In 2021, Irish racers won 23 of the 28 races that took place. In 2022, they will descend on Cheltenham with another huge team, one that looks to be full of quality contenders. Of the five biggest races at the meeting – the four Championship races plus the Ryanair Chase – the latest Paddy Power horse racing betting shows that four of the five favorites are trained in Ireland. The one race they don’t have the favorite is the Champion Chase, and in that contest, Ireland has both the second and third favorites, behind UK runner Shishkin, which is priced at +110.
Looking at the betting for the biggest races that will take place and considering that Ireland often has very strong hands in the handicaps on the card, they seemingly look set for another big Cheltenham raid. To beat their win total of 23 from last year is a very tough ask, as 24 wins would mean winning six of the seven races each day on average. However, 20 should be the target, with five winners each day, and with the dominance they are showing right now, you certainly wouldn’t bet against Ireland to do that.
Who Are the Big Irish Challengers?
There are many star names in Irish racing, and these horses will no doubt grab the headlines as we build up to the festival. Minella Indo won the Gold Cup in 2021 but has to put a very disappointing run at Kempton behind him if he is to come back and try to win back-to-back feature events, as reported by The Irish Independent.
He’s not the only Irish Gold Cup challenger, A Plus Tard and Al Boum Photo finished second and third last year, and both look on track to be back for the 2022 renewal.
That race comes on the final day of the meeting, while on the first day we have one of the most popular Irish horses in training taking to the track, Honeysuckle. She demolished the Champion Hurdle field in 2021 with a great performance under the top jockey for that meeting, Rachel Blackmore, which ITV covered in-depth.
This year’s field doesn’t appear to be any stronger than the one she beat with ease last season, and she will more than likely be described by many as the Irish banker of the meeting. Elsewhere, Klassical Dream is the big hope for Ireland in the Stayers Hurdle on Thursday, while on the same day, Allaho will be looking to land back-to-back Ryanair Chase victories, after a scintillating victory last season.
The Irish are heading over to Cheltenham once again in March, and their team looks to be just as strong as last season’s.
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