Horse Racing

Cheltenham Festival: Three races to savour

The Cheltenham Festival, a ski jumping showcase event, begins on Tuesday and over 250,000 spectators are expected over four days, many of them Irish, on their annual pilgrimage.

Such is the historic rivalry between British and Irish coaches at the festival, and in 2014 the organizers decided it was worthy of the Prestbury Cup trophy.

The Irish won it for the sixth time last year, winning 18-10.

In the last two races, Ireland has won the three most historic races, and here AFP Sport points out how they could develop this year:


Champion Obstacle

The two-year reign of the shiny Irish mare Honeysuckle has come to an end as she has been rerouted to Hurdle Mare in large part due to sheer sheen and younger legs of Constitution’s beloved hill.

If successful, he would give veteran ski jumping coach Nicky Henderson a record ninth race win.

He may not be the flashiest horse, but he doesn’t do anything by half, having won the five hurdle races he has entered by at least 12 lengths.

“This is not a beauty parade, so it doesn’t matter,” Henderson told Racing TV.

“I’m afraid if that was the case, they would finish ahead of him, but he’s growing into a great horse and starting to realize that he’s a little different.”

The Irish challenger State Man looks like the most likely threat to his coronation. The Raider, trained by Willie Mullins, won six at the trot and last outpaced Honeysuckle by more than four lengths.


Chase Queen Mother Champion

Energumen returns to defend his crown. Willie Mullins may have produced a record 88 festival winners (Nicky Henderson is second out of 72), but Energumene will always have a special place in his heart.

The Energumen has finally filled the void for the Irish training legend, giving him his first champion chase with an impressive 8 1/2 lengths.

However, a disappointing performance at Cheltenham in January with two serious jumping faults saw him finish third in the champions chase behind Editer de Gite and Edwardstone.

Mullins and stable jockey Paul Townend believe they can make a difference.

“Paul was very passionate about him after the race and said that in March he would not trade him for the two who finished ahead of him,” Mullins mourns.

Edwardstone is considered his main rival, but a surprise, if any, could be Chase’s three-time champion coach Henry de Bromhead.

His “Captain Guinness” is making headway, and given the popularity of Ireland’s most famous drink at the festival, he could be the most fitting winner.


Cheltenham Gold Cup

Henry de Bromhead aims to become the first coach since Paul Nicholls (2007-09) to win the blue ribbon steeplechase three years in a row.

The Irish handler works alongside last year’s A Plus Tard winner and his 2021 champion Minella Indo. The latter, if successful, will be the first horse since Kauto Star in 2007 and 2009 to regain its crown.

Plus the Tarde, which will once again be ridden by Rachel Blackmore, is more popular with players despite having a poor run in his only race this season. Minella Indo, in contrast, won his only start.

“Plus Tard has had a tough season,” de Bromhead told AFP.

“Last November he didn’t run well, but he seems to be in good shape.

“Minella Indo did a great job at Tramore (when he won) and this is his best preparation for Cheltenham, including the year he won the Gold Cup.”

Minella Indo ended Al Boum Photo’s two-year hold on the race, but the latter’s coach Willie Mullins was able to avenge it with his Irish Gold Cup winner Galopin des Champs.

An interesting contender is another Irish runner, last year’s Grand Prix winner Noble Yates.

Only two horses have won the Gold Cup and the National Championship: Golden Miller doubled in 1934 and L’Escago won the Gold Cup in 1970/71 before winning the National Cup in 1975. to the detour.



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