As preparations intensify for the Cheltenham Festival, the trainers will be preparing their horses for their respective races. The Gold Cup is the pinnacle of the festival and this year’s race sees the Patrick G Kelly horse Presenting Percy as the current favourite to win at the Cheltenham Festival, at a price of 4/1.
For Willie Mullins, he has won the award for being the leading trainer at Cheltenham Festival on five occasions and with the horses at his disposal, it’s more than likely that he can win it for a sixth time.
Irish horses have a decorated history in the main event of the Cheltenham Festival – the Gold Cup. Golden Miller, Arkle and L’Escargot all hailed from the Emerald Isle and each one won the Gold Cup on multiple occasions.
Here we take a look at Willie Mullins’ Irish hopes for this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
First up is Relegate, who will be competing in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle on the opening day of the festival as well as the Ballymore Novice Hurdle on Ladies’ Day. He has competed in two races so far this season, both times jockeyed by Ruby Walsh and has registered a third and first place finish.
At Punchestown in November, Relegate finished in third behind Cuneo and Satoshi in the Irish EBF Auction Maiden Hurdle, but was later promoted to second place after Cuneo was demoted to third. His victory came a month later in the Clinton Higgins Chartered Accountants Mares Maiden Hurdle at Naas racecourse, where he ran as favourite and fended off a late challenge from Caravation.
At odds of 33/1 he is not being backed to win the race, but bigger shocks have happened in horse racing in the past.
Racing on the same day as Relegate is Getabird, who will be competing in the biggest race of the day – the Champion Hurdle. He has started the season well, finishing in first place in the GAA Beginners Chase at Punchestown in early December before finishing in second place in the Novice Chase at Limerick on Boxing Day. Despite the race as odds-on favourite, the Irish horse finished half a length behind Hardline.
At 16/1, he is another of Willie Mullins’ Irish horses who look unlikely to claim victory, especially with nine horses expected to set off the race at shorter odds.
Racing in the main event of the entire festival, Bellshill is arguably Mullins’ best shot of having an Irish winner at this year’s festival. He has only raced once since the start of the new season and finished in a disappointing fourth place behind Kemboy, Monalee and Road To Respect, who will all be competing in the Gold Cup.
Priced at 16/1, there is a reasonable chance that Bellshill could win the Gold Cup, especially when there is no odds-on favourite. The favourite for the race is Presenting Percy at a price of 4/1, but having not competed since last year’s Cheltenham Festival, it could be the case that he falters, providing Bellshill with an opportunity to seize the initiative and win the prestigious race.