The 2023 Cheltenham Festival is set to feature the leading jockeys in National Hunt racing as they look to land some of the biggest prizes in the sport across the four-day meeting in Gloucestershire.
Here is a look at some Irish jockeys with strong rides, and why they could make it another big meeting for Ireland.
As the number one jockey to Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins, Paul Townend gets the choice of the runners from his yard. Mullins is set to send across a strong team again, with big chances on all four days.
Townend will partner Galopin Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. As of the 22nd of February, the three-time Grade One winner is the 6/4.
Many Irish jockeys will favour nicely with this year’s Cheltenham betting odds
Galopin Des Champs won the Irish Gold Cup at the Dublin Racing Festival. Many horse pundits are of the opinion that he is very talented. Townend’s job will be to ensure his horse stays away from any trouble and is given the best passage around the course.
Paul Townend salutes the crowd after State Man’s victory pic.twitter.com/XWWY9VZJtL
— PA Racing (@PAracing) March 18, 2022
The Irishman was the leading jockey at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, and with the rides on State Man, Facile Vega, Energumene and Lossiemouth this year, he looks set to have another big meeting.
As you will have read in the Irish news earlier this year, an injury to Jack Kennedy forced Davy Russell out of retirement.
Russell will be riding the majority of the Gigginstown-owned runners at the Festival in 2023. They include Delta Work in the Cross Country Chase, Conflated in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Fury Road in the Ryanair Chase.
Given his reputation, Russell is likely to pick some spare rides across the four days as many owners will see him as a great booking for their horse. He is known for being very composed and making the right decisions on the track.
The former Irish Champion jockey is now 43 years old and if he decides to return to retirement at the end of the season, this will be his last appearance at the biggest week of the year in jumps racing.
With victories in the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2022, two of the most prestigious races at the Cheltenham Festival, Rachael Blackmore had one of the best weeks of her career in the saddle. A Plus Tard’s victory in the latter ensured she became the first female jockey to win the Blue Riband contest.
Blackmore is set to team up with Honeysuckle and A Plus Tard again this year. The former will run in the Mares’ Hurdle, the race she won in 2020.
You are an incredible jockey. pic.twitter.com/LyRnAai67R
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) March 18, 2022
Defending Gold Cup champion A Plus Tard will need to bounce back from a disappointing run at Haydock in what has been his sole appearance this season.
With Mullins having multiple entries in many of the leading races at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival, rider Danny Mullins could benefit as he tends to take the second string from the stable.
Mullins has ridden lots of Grade One winners in Ireland and the UK. He is a jockey that Willie has a lot of confidence in, so should Townend become unavailable through injury or suspension, Danny will likely be on board the big-name horses.
Some of the rides Mullins could be booked for across the week include Impaire Et Passe in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Dysart Dynamo in the Arkle Trophy and Vauban in the Champion Hurdle. Those three horses alone give him a great chance of celebrating major success this season.
The opening day of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival takes place on Tuesday, 14th of March. There will be 28 races across the week at the meeting, all of which have a great deal of significance to them.