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Irish stables have dominated the leading races at Cheltenham Festival in recent history, and the 2022 competition looks to be no different with the yards of Willie Mullins, Henry de Bromhead and Gordon Elliott among others lining up major hauls at the week-long event. Five out of the last six Cheltenham Gold Cups have been won by Irish trainers, including back-to-back triumphs for Mullins in 2019 and 2020 when Al Boum Photo etched his name in the history of the sport.
The latest racing results will tell you that the Irish-trained horses are in fine fettle ahead of Cheltenham, including Galvin, A Plus Tard and Allaho. A look at the Cheltenham 2022 race cards will show that all three of those horses are among the leading contenders for the Gold Cup, which seems set to fall into Irish hands once more. The last year a trainer outside of the Emerald Isle won the Gold Cup was 2018 when Colin Tizzard and Native River won the crown, beating out the favourite Might Bite. Since then it has been held by Mullins and De Bromhead, who triumphed in the race for the first time when Minella Indo secured the title, while his stable-mate A Plus Tard finished second.
Irish dominance could be the theme of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival. The Champion Hurdle appears to be a straight battle between De Bromhead’s Honeysuckle and Mullins’ Appreciate It. Nicky Henderson does have a strong record in the race, but his hopes will rest on Epatante who was blown away by Honeysuckle at the race last season. The French thoroughbred has been on point to secure two victories over the course of the campaign, but it will take a special effort to dislodge Honeysuckle from the top spot, while Appreciate It also boasts outstanding pedigree.
The Champion Chase is perhaps the best hope for Henderson and it is arguably the lock of the week for a non-Irish trainer. Shishkin has been truly dominant over the course of his career, winning his two previous races at Cheltenham in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Arkle Chase. He has won his last ten races on the bounce, including a victory over Mullins’ top chaser Energumene in their last outing at the Clarence House Chase. Energumene is a fine horse and could deliver a performance for the ages to knock off Shishkin, but Henderson and Nico de Boinville will be ready for the challenge. Energumene came very close to beating out his rival at Ascot, and a slight improvement could pave the way for an Irish clean sweep of the major prizes.
The Gold Cup seems destined to fall into Irish hands. Galvin enhanced his claim for Elliott by beating A Plus Tard in Leopardstown at the Savills Chase. A Plus Tard won the Lancashire Chase earlier in the campaign with a fine performance and finished second in the Gold Cup last year. Minella Indo’s history in the race will undoubtedly allow him to contend, while Al Boum Photo and Allaho will hold the key for Mullins and a potential third crown. The best hope for a non-Irish trainer is Protektorat out of Dan Skelton’s yard, who he has impressed over the course of the term.
Irish-based trainers seem destined for another major haul at Cheltenham and it will take something special to deny another sweep of the major crowns outside of Shishkin and the Champion Chase.