Your Guide to The Irish Challenge at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival
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Luckless Jonathan Burke suffers further injury blow
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The Irish raiding party for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival has a lot to live up to. Last year, there were a record 19 Irish-trained winners over the four days, an increase of four on the previous best tally which was set in 2016. Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins dominated with six winners each in 2017 and the early indications are that they will enjoy plenty of success this time too. And also fancying their chances of visiting the winners' enclosure at the Festival will be Jessica Harrington and Henry De Bromhead while it must be odds-on that Joseph O'Brien will be celebrating at some stage too!
Our Duke, Samcro, Apple's Jade, Getabird, Footpad, Petit Mouchoir, Un De Sceaux, Monalee and Supasundae are just some of the big Irish names chasing Festival success. Roll on a huge week of National Hunt racing!
The Irish challenge on the final day of the 2018 Cheltenham
Festival numbers 52 horses, easily the biggest of the four days. With runners
in each of the seven races, there is every chance of matching the five winners
enjoyed by the visitors on the Friday of last year’s meeting. Heading into the last day, there have been 15 Irish-trained winners, four short of the overall record set last year.
Nine of the 18 runners declared for the Timico Gold Cup are
trained in Ireland including Our Duke which is expected to be vying for
favouritism come the off. His recent win at Gowran Park over subsequent RSA
Novices’ Chase hero Presenting Percy reads very well and he could well put it
up to the more-locally trained Might bite and Native River. Willie Mullins runs
four in the race including Killultagh Vic and Total Recall while Noel Meade and
Joseph O'Brien might be fancying their chances with Road To Respect and Edwulf
Racing begins with the Triumph Hurdle and here five
Irish-trained horses are among the nine declared runners, surely one of the
smallest fields in the history of the race. But the Irish team might be up against
it with the unbeaten Apple’s Shakira the likeliest winner although the maiden
Farclas, trained by Gordon Elliott, remains an exciting prospect and will
certainly be winning races soon.
There is a fair Irish assault on the County Hurdle, won last
year by Arctic Fire for Willie Mullins and Paul Townend, with 11 challengers
from this side of the water in one of the most open looking renewals in years.
Mullins has five this time, including the 14/1 favourite Sandsend, and Joseph O'Brien looks to have a strong team and
his Le Richebourg might go well at a bigger price.
Seven of the 20 runners in the Albert Bartlett Novices’
Hurdle are Irish-trained and in another open looking race, it might just pay to
side with Chris’s Dream which was so impressive on his first start for Henry De
Bromhead at Clonmel last time.
Burning Ambition, trained in Fethard, County Wexford by
Pierce Power, heads the runners for the Foxhunters’ Chase for which there are
five Irish-trained runners in all. The Alan Fleming-trained Foxrock is also
prominent in the betting and shouldn’t be too far away.
JJ Slevin gained his first Cheltenham Festival success on
the Gordon Elliott-trained Champagne Classic in the Martin Pipe Conditional
Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle last year and he rides Early Doors for his cousin
Joseph O'Brien this time. There are nine Irish-trained runners in all and while
Early Doors certainly has a chance, the Willie Mullins-trained Deal D’Estruval
might just be the one to side with.
There was an Irish-trained winner of the finale 12 months
ago when Rock The World rounded off a memorable few days for Jessica Harrington
and Robbie Power and six Irish-trained runners will be hoping to give us an
eighth win in the race since Harrington’s Space Trucker won in 1999. Don’t Touch
It gives her a great chance of further success.
1.30 - Apple’s Shakira; 2.10 - Le Richebourg; 2.50 - Chris’s
Dream; 3.30 - Our Duke; 4.10 - Foxrock; 4.50 - Deal D’Estruval; 5.30 - Don’t
At Cheltenham 2018
for Cheltenham 2018
Leading Irish Contenders