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2016 Cheltenham Festival: Who to look out for

David Metcalf | March 11 2016

Coral take a look at jockeys, trainers and horses hoping to make an impact and break records during the four days of Cheltenham Festival, which gets underway on Tuesday, March 15th.

Jockeys

Here are our observations about The Festival’s jockeys – from the cream of the crop to expectant hopefuls.

Seeking first winner

Leighton Aspel, Sean Bowen, Henry Brooke, Johnny Burke,Tom Cannon, Lizzie Kelly, Will Kennedy, Paul Moloney, Joshua Moore, James Reveley, Harry Skelton, Mark Walsh, Adam Wedge, Trevor Whelan.

Champion Hurdle

Ruby Walsh would become the joint most successful jockey in the Champion Hurdle, alongside the late Tim Molony, if victorious in 2016 aboard Annie Power. He has already scored on Hurricane Fly (2011 and 2013) and Faugheen (2015).

Ruby Walsh

HORSE RACING

The leading jockey of all time at The Festival, Walsh needs five more winners to reach 50. He has been the Boodles leading rider at The Festival nine times, including six of the last seven years, and partnered a record seven winners in 2009.

Trainers

Now we cast our eye over the trainers’ aims – who is chasing a maiden victory and who stands to reap rewards?

Seeking first winner

Peter Bowen, David Bridgwater, Brian Ellison, John Ferguson, Alan Fleming, Harry Fry, Micky Hammond, Martin Keighley, Neil King, Kerry Lee, Charlie Longsdon, Fergal O’Brien, Ben Pauling, Nicky Richards, Jeremy Scott, Dan Skelton, Tim Vaughan, Paul Webber, Nick Williams.

The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award

Willie Mullins Naas Photo: Patrick McCann 21.02.2016
Willie Mullins is after his fourth consecutive Festival championship, having won The Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award in 2013 (five wins), 2014 (four) and 2015 (new record of eight), and fifth in all as he was the top trainer in 2011 (four).

Racing Post Arkle Chase

If Vaniteux lowers the colours of Douvan, Nicky Henderson would become the most successful trainer in the Arkle Chase trophy. He is currently tied with the late Tom Dreaper on five.

Champion Hurdle

Seven Barrows
Henderson would also become the most successful ever trainer in the Champion Hurdle if one of his five potential runners wins – My Tent Or Yours, Peace And Co, Top Notch, Hargam and Sign Of A Victory. He has already sent out five Champion Hurdle victors, the same number as Peter Easterby who retired in 1995.

National Hunt Chase

Jonjo O’Neill is the leading trainer in the National Hunt Chase, having sent out five winners of the four-mile novices’ chase since 1992. The Gloucestershire-based handler is responsible for this year’s favourite Minella Rocco.

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls has enjoyed great victories in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, with five winners so far, and Britain’s champion jump trainer would join the late Dreaper as the most successful handler in the race if triumphant in 2016.

Weatherbys Champion Bumper

Mullins is going after his ninth success in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper.

Ryanair Chase

There have been no Irish-trained winners of the Ryanair Chase.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

Top Irish trainer Mullins holds a strong hand in the Cheltenham Gold Cup as he seeks a first victory. He has trained the runner-up five times, Djakadam (2015), On His Own (2014), Sir Des Champs (2013), Hedgehunter (2006) and Florida Pearl (2000).

Horses

And, finally, which horses are jostling for major racing landmarks?

Queen Mother Champion Chase

Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy try to become only the second horse to regain the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Moscow Flyer completed the feat as an 11-year-old in 2005.

Somersby

Ascot
Somersby is set to make his eighth appearance at The Festival in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Trained by Mick Channon and owned by Timico boss Tim Radford, the 12-year-old was runner-up in the two-mile chase highlight in 2014 and 2015, finished second in the 2010 Arkle Chase and third in the 2009 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

French Opera

French Opera, trained by Henderson and owned by Judy Wilson and Martin Landau, could also have his eighth outing at The Festival in the Brown Advisory and Merriebelle Stable Plate.

The 13-year-old has made seven consecutive appearances at the meeting since 2009, headed by places in the 2009 and 2010 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase.

The Giant Bolster

Giant Bolster
The Giant Bolster, trained near Cheltenham by former jockey David Bridgwater, is due to have his seventh consecutive outing at The Festival.

Owned by Simon Hunt and Gary Lambton, the 11-year-old is entered in the meeting’s highlight, the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, in which he has finished second (2012), third (2014) and fourth (2013), and the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase with 11st 6lb.

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