Cheltenham Festival 2022: Britain vs Ireland

March 01, 2022

Cheltenham Festival 2022: Britain vs Ireland

The greatest show on turf for fans of jump racing, the magnificent Cheltenham Festival sees an annual battle between the best of the British and Irish trained runners. A battle which quickly became a “no-contest” in 2021, with the Irish winning 23 of the 28 races on offer, including all four of the Championship events. Will we be in for more of the same in 2022? Or can Britain keep at least one of the major prizes on home soil?

Champion Hurdle

The Irish Challenge: Unbeaten in 14 career starts, defending champion Honeysuckle (4/7 William Hill) is just about the most popular mare in training, and looked as well as ever when powering clear in the Irish version of this race last time out. Throw in the untapped potential of Teahupoo (8/1 BetVictor) and Appreciate It (7/2 Coral) who was in a different league to everything else in last season’s Supreme Novice Hurdle, and Ireland would look to boast a mightily strong hand.

Best of the Home Team: The British are nevertheless not without hope. Nicky Henderson’s Epatante (10/1 bet365) is a six-time winner in Grade 1 company, including in this contest in 2020, whilst Tommy’s Oscar (25/1 Betfair) from the tiny Northumberland operation of Ann Hamilton would make for one of the stories of the meeting if able to extend his winning sequence to five.

Edge: Ireland

Queen Mother Champion Chase

The Irish Challenge: Ireland have the defending champ in the shape of Put The Kettle On (20/1 William Hill), who looks set to join Envoi Allen (20/1 Betfair) in a two pronged Henry De Bromhead attack. Master trainer Willie Mullins is represented by the supremely talented Chacun Pour Soi (6/1 Coral), and Energumene (3/1 SkyBet) who, whilst smart, does need to reverse the form with a certain British runner….

Best of the Home Team: No pressure Nicky Henderson, but if there is to be a home success in one of the major events, the hopes of a nation are riding on your shoulders…. Or more accurately upon the shoulders of Shiskin (4/5 William Hill). Unbeaten in his ten most recent starts – two or which came at the Cheltenham Festival – the mount of Nico De Boinville warmed up for this by lowering the colours of Energumene in a sizzling Clarence House Chase at Ascot. Of the others, Nube Negra (10/1 Coral) only went down narrowly 12 months ago and may not be far away – although this does look a deeper race.

Edge: Britain

Stayers Hurdle

The Irish Challenge: Gavin Cromwell’s defending champion Flooring Porter (7/2 Betfair) is the obvious first port of call having bounced back to form with a second placed finish in the Leopardstown Christmas Hurdle. Klassical Dream (5/1 William Hill) finished one spot ahead of Flooring Porter that day and, having stormed up the hill to land the 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, is another who goes well at the track. Peter Fahey’s Royal Kahala (10/1 Betfair) arrives seeking a hattrick and is worth considering should the rains arrive.

Best of the Home Team: Third in the 2019 Champion Bumper and fourth in the 2020 Albert Bartlett, Thyme Hill (9/2 BetFair) generally goes well here, whilst Emma Lavelle’s Paisley Park (7/1 Betfred) won this very race back in 2019 and roared back to form in the Cleeve Hurdle last time out. Going in the green and gold of JP McManus, Champ (5/1 Sky Bet) blotted his copybook when falling in last season’s Gold Cup but has been a revelation since switched to hurdles - most notably when hacking up in the Long Walk Hurdle at Ascot.

Edge: Tie

Gold Cup

The Irish Challenge: Minella Indo (5/1 bet365) and A Plus Tard (10/3 Betfred) filled first and second spots in 2021 and return renew battle, whilst Al Boum Photo (10/1 Betfair) could manage only third last year but was too good for the rest in both 2019 and 2020. Toronado Flyer (12/1 William Hill) meanwhile shocked almost everyone in the King George at Kempton and shouldn’t be underestimated. And we still haven’t mentioned Gordon Elliott, who has the not inconsiderable double act of Savills Chase winner, Galvin (4/1 Betfair), and Irish Gold Cup king, Conflated (12/1 bet365) to call upon. Having filled the first three spots in 2021, could the Irish do so once again?

Best of the Home Team: The first thing to mention here is that no British horse finished within 29 lengths of the winner in 2021. That’s a considerable gap to bridge, but if there is a horse to do it, it may just be Dan Skelton’s, Protektorat (8/1 Coral). Already a dual winner at the track, this seven-year-old finished a gallant second in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on his seasonal return and tuned up for this with a 25-length romp in the Many Clouds Chase. We are well into the those at double figure odds before we reach the next British trained runner, but Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House (18/1 Unibet) is two from three at the track, including a win in the Marsh Novices Chase, whilst Venetia Williams, Royal Pagaille (20/1 Betfair), could thrive should the heavens open.

Edge: Ireland

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