Cheltenham Festival: The Irish Challenge
The yearly battle beaten British and Irish trainers is a regular feature of the Cheltenham Festival and plenty will be backing the Irish to reign supreme
It has been well documented the increasing strength of the Irish raiding party in the recent years and the 2015 Festival could well herald the start of a truly dominate period.
Starting with the current Irish Champion Trainer, Willie Mullins; and his presence at the 2015 Festival is likely to be even greater than in previous years when he has led the Irish charge.
He has sent over a battalion of some 50 horses to Prestbury Park, which included the four strong favourites for each of the Grade 1 races on the opening day of the Festival.
Whilst Day 1 will undoubtedly important, Mullins also dominates the remaining Novice Chase and Hurdle races with the likes of Nichols Canyon, Don Poli, Vautour and Black Hercules all favourites for their respective contests.
His strength in depth is further evidenced by his control over the Champion Bumper, a race in which he has seven runners entered and in which he has won twice in the last three renewals.
Added to that haul, his obvious chances in both the Queen Mother Champion Chase and Gold Cup, and it becomes evident that he alone could secure victory over the British challenge.
Nonetheless, the charge doesn’t start and end with Willie Mullins as plenty of his Irish fellow trainers will be looking for Festival success.
Gordon Elliot trains a raft of Gigginstown House Stud runners and will hope the likes of No More Heroes and Don Cossack can justify their market positions and offer further Grade 1 success for the Irish.
A similar story applies to Noel Meade who has Road To Riches, Very Wood and Apache Stronghold, a trio of well-fancied runners for Michael O’Leary’s racing operation.
Another trainer likely to support the Irish cause with winners is Jessica Harrington, who saddles the reigning Champion Hurdle Champion Jezki as well as a number of good handicap prospects.