A prevailing trend at the Cheltenham Festival in recent years is for Irish trained horses to absolutely tear it up when they come over to England.
Nothing illustrates that better than the fact that the Prestbury Cup – a trophy awarded either to Great Britain or Ireland for the most winners at each Festival – has gone back to the Emerald Isle in each of the last three years.
Although there’s still a while to go until Cheltenham 2019, with the Festival taking place between March 12 and 15, some races already have a strong Irish presence in the futures betting. With that in mind, here are four Cheltenham Festival races in particular where Irish raiders are set to dominate.
All but one previous running of the Mares’ Hurdle over two-and-a-half miles have been won by horses trained in Ireland since the race was added to the Festival in 2008.
Irish champion jumps trainer Willie Mullins especially targets this event and has won it nine times before with four different horses.
Despite possible Mares’ Hurdle contenders Laurina, Limini, and Stormy Island joining 2018 winner Benie Des Dieux in his Closutton stable, it’s former charge and now Gordon Elliott trained Apple’s Jade that is a hot betting favourite with bookmakers.
Cross Country Chase
Another Festival race where the Irish really have dominated is the Cross Country discipline. A thoroughbred horse needs abundant stamina in its pedigree in order to last home for three-and-three-quarter miles.
Although run as a handicap until become a conditions race in recent years, all but two renewals have gone to Emerald Isle based horses.
Subsequent Aintree Grand National hero Tiger Roll is the +250.00 favorite with Paddy Power to win the Cross Country two years running for Elliott and owners Gigginstown House Stud.
However, the improving My Hometown and relative Cross Country discipline veteran Josie’s Orders head a strong contingent from the specialist stable of Enda Bolger and another of Ireland’s leading owners JP McManus.
While British and French-trained horses have done well in the Cross Country handicaps run at other Cheltenham race meetings, off level weights it’s easy to why Irish runners with experience of bank races do so well.
The British staying hurdle division – that is horses over the smaller National Hunt obstacles running at around three miles – looks very weak this year.
While a home contender looks sure to emerge from the pack in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot over the Christmas period, it’s no surprise to find five Irish trained horses towards the head of the betting.
Leading those is 2018 winner Penhill for Mullins and his stable has won the Stayers at Cheltenham in each of the last two seasons.
While he needs minimal racetrack prep, popular veteran Faugheen would bring the house down were he to win this at current futures Cheltenham odds of 10/1 with Paddy Power.
Last year’s second Supasundae is a highly consistent hurdler at Grade 1 level across a variety of distances for Jessica Harrington, meanwhile, and Elliott may have a hand to play too.
The aforementioned mare Apple’s Jade, if the owners are bold enough to take on the geldings, would have claims if lining up, alongside the highly-regarded Samcro.
While the last three Ryanair Chase winners were all Ireland based, there’s another factor in play for the 2019 running.
Many owners and trainers will want to avoid reigning Queen Mother Champion Chase star Altior, who is the undisputed king of the two-mile division.
That means stepping horses up in trip to the Ryanair’s extended two-and-a-half miles as a result.
Again, the first four in Paddy Power’s Ryanair Chase betting are all Irish trained and headed by John Durkan Memorial winner Min.
The last two Ryanair winners Balko Des Flos and Un De Sceaux may lineup again, alongside Henry De Bromhead trained talent Monalee and the highly-regarded Footpad.