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Image by Carine06 on flickr
Image by Carine06 on flickr

There are always plenty of subplots and narratives when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival. The Prestbury Cup has become a much talked-about accolade over the last decade, although it has tended to be dominated by the Irish contingent in recent years. Owners will also battle for supremacy and although Willie Mullins has been dominant in recent seasons, the top Cheltenham trainer championship is another interesting angle which tends to keep punters engaged and excited across the five days.

Furthermore, there are a number of high-profile jockeys who will be battling with one another to finish top of the pile come Friday afternoon. Ruby Walsh is the most successful jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, although prior to his retirement, the Irish rider admitted that he still feels the pressure of riding at the prestigious four-day event.

With Walsh having hung up his saddle, the honour of finishing as the top jockey at Prestbury Park has been shared between a number of riders including Nico de Boinville, Davy Russell and Rachael Blackmore, who made history to become the first female to be crowned top jockey in Gloucestershire back in 2021 after riding six winners across the four days.

Blackmore will be present at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival, however, she’s had a much quieter couple of years despite winning 16 of her 96 (17%) of her rides over the larger obstacles in Ireland this season.

Paul Townend

Paul Townend has been the most successful jockey over the last five years and the 33-year old will be aiming to clinch a hat-trick of victories when he takes to the turf on March 12th. He rode five winners in 2020 to clinch his first success in the Top Jockey Championship with his most notable success coming on Al Boum Photo in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The six-time Irish Champion jockey has pretty much won everything at this festival and he’ll be looking to clinch a third consecutive success here.

Last season, he rode Galopin Des Champs to victory in the Gold Cup to record his third success in the prestigious contest. He also partnered Lossiemouth to victory in the Triumph Hurdle and was on board Energumene as the popular 10-year old clinched back-to-back victories in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. He was also in charge of Impaire Et Passe in the Ballymore Novices’ Chase and guided El Fabiolo into the winners enclosure following his success in the Arkle.

Predictably, Townend is priced up as the odds-on favourite in the latest Horse Racing betting markets with many of the best UK bookmakers having recently added a number of Cheltenham Festival specials to their site.

Townend is still fighting fit and having so far failed to ride a winner in the Champion Hurdle, he will be determined to partner State Man to victory on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival. Naturally, his partnership with the irrepressible Willie Mullins gives him a fantastic chance of retaining his title in 2024, although the Cork-born rider will have to be at his imperious best in order to fend off a potential challenge from Mark Walsh, Nico de Boinville and Jack Kennedy.

As well as partnering Lossiemouth and El Fabiolo once again, Townend will also ride Ballyburn in the Supreme Novices’ and Jade de Grugy in the Mare’s Novices’.

Mark Walsh

Mark Walsh has never managed to ride more than two winners at the Cheltenham Festival, although the County Kildare-born rider is expected to have a decent batch of rides at this year’s event.

He rode Sire du Berlais to victory at the 2023 festival and if he can manage to stay injury-free, he has every chance of beating his previous record at Prestbury Park.

His book of potential rides could include: Saint Roi (Grand Annual), Majborough (Triumph Hurdle) and Fact to File in the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase.

Nico de Boinville

Nico de Boinville already has a Cheltenham top jockey championship under his belt and he’ll be hoping to end Paul Townend’s dominance this time around. The experienced pilot missed most of January with a broken collarbone, however, he appears to have returned to form at just the right time and is likely to ride a few winners in the West Country this March.

Constitution Hill is his most notable ride at the festival, although Shishkin is also another high profile mount alongside Queen Mother Champion Chase entry Jonbon.

Jack Kennedy

Jack Kennedy hasn’t been to the Cheltenham Festival for a number of seasons having endured a frustrating spell on the sidelines due to injury.

The 24-year old has already landed six Grade 1 wins at the festival and will be hoping to add to his haul in 2024. He still has plenty of time on his side and will undoubtedly get his hands on this trophy at some point during his career. He’ll be hoping that he can take advantage of his superb book of rides which includes: Delta Work (Cross Country Chase), Gerri Colombe (Gold Cup) and Teahupoo (Stayers).

You can find more intriguing articles in our section on Wagering & Racing.

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