Top Five Jockeys To Follow At The Cheltenham Festival

1. Ruby Walsh

The Festival's leading jockey Ruby Walsh can never be one to ignore, and will ride plenty of leading hopefuls for trainer Willie Mullins next week.

With 58 Festival winners, the 39-year-old has been Champion Jockey at the festival eleven times in the last fifteen years and has identified the Rich Ricci-owned Benie Des Dieux in the Mares Hurdle as his best chance of glory in the upcoming week.

Walsh will also climb aboard Min and Faugheen in the same colours - Min who's engagement at the Festival is yet to be confirmed - with options in the Champion Chase or the Ryanair, whereas Faugheen is all but set to head for the Stayers Hurdle on Day Three.

He has four options in the Gold Cup to pick from, whilst Klassical Dream represents the best of the novices - either Supreme or Ballymore bound.

Overall, Walsh will hope for better fortunes this time around after last year's meeting was brought to a shallow end early on. After victories in the Arkle and the Mares' Hurdle, his fall on Al Boum Photo in the RSA resulted in a broken leg which ruled him out for the rest of the Festival and respective jump's season.

2. Barry Geraghty

Barry Geraghty will be aboard several Cheltenham favourites given JP McManus's strong hand for the festival, and will need to handle the expected pressure on the likes of Buveur D'Air, Epatante and Champ.

Buveur D'Air will be gunning for a third straight Champion Hurdle for trainer Nicky Henderson, but will have much higher-profile opposition this time around with the two mares; Apples Jade and Laurina, both receiving weight from the dual winner.

He has plenty of new guns to look forward to: All the money has been for the French mare Epatante in the Mares Novice Final, whilst Geraghty has the novice trio of Champ, Birchdale and Champagne Platnium in the Ballymore to decide between - albeit Birchdale looks set for the Albert Bartlett.

Defi Du Seuil looks set for a clash in the JLT, whilst he could also be brought in by Joseph O'Brien to ride Supreme candidate Fakir D'oudairies in another graded affair - all these chances are without even considering the handicaps.

Geraghty will almost certainly be making at least one trip to the winners enclosure, and it could be his best festival to date.

3. Nico De Boinville

Another man with big pressure on his shoulders is Nico De Boinville - who rides the shortest price favourite all week in Altior, bidding to emulate Big Buck's record of eighteen successive victories in the Champion Chase.

He burst on to the Cheltenham stage with victory aboard Whisper in the 2014 Coral Cup, but became a household name when prevailing from the front end on the novice Coneygree later in the week in the Gold Cup for Mark Bradstock.

Since becoming stable jockey to Champion Trainer Nicky Henderson though, he has picked up a number of high-profile rides, including Sprinter Sacre and of course Altior in the 2016 and 2018 Queen Mother Champion Chases - the latter also coming through the Supreme Novices and Arkle Chase in two previous years.

The 29-year-old was called into his absolute best in the RSA two years ago, when retrieving Might Bite virtually from the crowd to get back up over old advisory Whisper, a horse than went onto ran a cracker on ground that did not suit in last season's Gold Cup.

De Boinville will be looking for a further triumph in the RSA again this year with Grade One Hurdle Santini, whilst he does have some decisions to make, including the choice of Angels Breath and Mister Fisher in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

4. Davy Russell

Davy Russell was crowned the leading jockey at last year's meeting, after four winners - three of which on Day Three of the Festival.

The other was his dominant display aboard Presenting Percy in the RSA Novices Chase - a horse who has had an intriguing preparation ahead of this year's Gold Cup.

The Pat Kelly-trained star has only been sighted since then once, when landing the spoils in the Grade 2 Galmoy Hurdle at Gowran Park in January.

The former Gigginstown-retained jockey has a handful of quality booked rides throughout the four days, including Delta Work in the three-mile novice chase division, and Commander Of Fleet in the Albert Bartlett.

Russell will also surely have a big hand to play in the big handicaps of the week. Keep an eye on the Gigginstown runners, they always seem to pop up!

5. Mark Walsh

Mark Walsh is certainly a jockey under the radar, and until now has not posed a great record at the track at Cheltenham letalone the Festival itself.

He jumped on Yanworth in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival in the absence of Barry Geraghty - who may have even selected Buveur D'Air anyway, and flopped his chances, finishing down the field.

Yes it could have been down to the horse, however it could be the year that his fortunes turn around with plenty of good chances to get stuck into.

Sir Erec clearly leads those hopefuls in the Triumph - should Joseph O'Brien keep faith with him, likewise with Fakir D'oudairies in the Supreme.

O'Brien has plenty of horses heading to the Fred Winter too, but sadly will be without Arkle favourite Le Richebourg in which Walsh would have been aboard.

Espoir D'Allen and City Island also could be graced by the presence of Mark Walsh in the saddle - both in top Grade One's in the opening couple of days.

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