Punters have been latching on to Irish-trained runners heading across to the Cheltenham Festival as the racing world inches closer to National Hunt’s grandest show of them all.
The Irish contingent, with many of its runners heading over from the yards of Gordon Elliott Willie Mullins and Joseph O'Brien, they are expected to have many of the favourites for the 28 races across the meeting.
Including the likes of now Champion Hurdle-bound Apple’s Jade, Triumph Hurdle contender Sir Erec, and Presenting Percy, who has been at the head of the Gold Cup market since his victory in the RSA Chase at last year’s festival.
The recent Dublin Racing festival has only strengthened their stranglehold on the markets.
On day one, Apple’s Jade was imperious when demolishing the field in the Irish Champion Hurdle, Min enhanced his credentials as the best two-mile chaser in Ireland by storming tosuccess to win his second Dublin Chase, while Le Richebourg catapulted himself to the head of the Arkle Betting with a cosy success in the Irish equivalent.
While day two notched a success for the British with La Bague Au Roi, Sir Erec, Klassical Dream and Bellshill all produced career-best performances when landing grade one honours on the card to further enhance their festival credentials.
At this stage, it looks like the British punters are set to be represented with Altior as the only certain banker across the meeting. Even two-time Champion Hurdle hero Buveur D’Air hasn’t been firing across all cylinders this season, despite bagging the Fighting Fifth Hurdle in November.
Apart from them two horses, there hasn’t been a stand-out performer for the Brits in various divisions. There has been no standout performer in the Novice Hurdle or Chasing divisions, as well as in the staying hurdle sphere, despite Paisley Park’s surge up the ladder this season.
Britain’s gold cup team has taken a battering this season, last season’s hero Native River hasn’t been his tip-top best all season, while Might Bite’s career has looked to have come to a shuddering halt.
Bristol De Mai and Clan Des Obeaux, winners of the Betfair and King George VI Chases respectively, still have questions to answer about staying the extreme test of a Gold Cup.
The Irish, on the other hand, can rely on over half of the top eight in the betting to land the ‘blue riband’.
Such is the confidence behind the Irish heading into the meeting, they are a best-priced8/13 to land the Prestbury Cup, which is given to the country who has the most winners across the four days.
They landed last year’s renewal courtesy of 17 winners at the festival compared to Britain’s 11, with Champion Trainer Gordon Elliott contributing to eight of those victories.