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The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle meeting when it comes to national hunt racing in the UK and Ireland. Last season, the festival resulted in a complete and utter dominance for Ireland, who went on to win 23 of the 28 races that took place over the four days.
We know all about the established stars that will hopefully be heading to Cheltenham once again, and some of the star performances from the up-and-coming horses have also been seen in Ireland, which further strengthens things. Of course, the countdown is important to see which horses are impressing, and following racing results today and in the future will be key for any punter that is trying to put together their own form book and work out who they think will come out on top at the festival.
The start to the new horse racing season has been strong for Ireland, and if that continues during the start of 2022, by the time we reach March and the festival, hopes will be high that more winners will come. Reaching the heights of last season may be a tough ask, but 20 winners is certainly a target to aim for that, which would work out at five winners per day on average across the meeting.
Who Will be the Stars for Ireland?
While the winners last season were spread across the major races at the meeting and the handicaps, it is of course the stars of Irish racing that everyone looks forward to seeing.
The two feature races of the meeting, the Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup, take centre stage on the opening and final day of the festival, and both already have strong Irish challengers at the head of the betting.
Honeysuckle won the Champion Hurdle in great style last season, and she is on course to come back and defend her crown. If there is a new contender to trouble here, that could well be Appreciate It, who will stay hurdling this season, and recorded a wide-margin victory in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle last season.
Appreciate It streaks away to win the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race and in some style #ITVRacing #CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/0uzKLgvLtX
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 16, 2021
In the main contest of the week, the Gold Cup, all eyes will be on the rematch between 2021 winner Minella Indo and the runner-up that day, A Plus Tard. The second named has already been out and impressed this season, winning at Haydock on seasonal reappearance in good style.
Not only did Ireland have the first two home in the Gold Cup last season, but they also had the third, with previous two-time winner Al Boum Photo running well for Willie Mullins. Given the strength in depth that Ireland have in this division, even if one of their horses either cannot make the race or disappoints on the day, many alternatives could take the crown.
Elsewhere, previous big race winners such as Allaho, Bob Olinger, Flooring Porter will all be going back to Cheltenham with expectations on their shoulders and could play their part in another successful festival for Ireland.