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The Cheltenham Festival is edging closer and while there are 28 races in total, the festival revolves around four Championship races that take place throughout.
These four races bring together the very best over a variety of different disciplines, and Ireland are looking to win all four this season, as they look to have another successful festival.
The Gold Cup is the centrepiece of the meeting, a race that Ireland have won for the last three years. This year, the race looks wide open, but the latest betting Cheltenham Gold Cup shows that six of the first seven in the betting all come from Ireland, which highlights how strong their challenge is.
One race they may not win, though, is the Champion Chase. This is a race that the UK will fancy their chances of winning, which is evidenced by the fact that Shishkin is currently at the head of the market as a strong favourite. Many of the Champion Chase tips made for the race will feature the 1/1 favourite heavily, such has been his dominance over two miles this year and last.
Away from the Champion Chase, the other three races look to have strong Irish chances, and we all know that anything can happen in racing, especially at the Cheltenham Festival. Is there a way that the Irish can win all four Championship races this season?
Honeysuckle Leads Irish Challenge
The star on show when it comes to Irish horses is certainly Honeysuckle: she will head to the Champion Hurdle on the first day of the meeting and will carry the hopes of almost every punter at the meeting. She is seen as the banker by many, not just of the Irish runners, but of every runner heading to Cheltenham.
A winner of her 14th race in a row when she won the Irish Champion Hurdle, she is clearly in great form and looks to have the Champion Hurdle at her mercy, given the quality we have seen from her over the past 18 months.
She’s still unbeaten! 😍
Honeysuckle pulls away to win the Chanelle Pharma Irish Champion Hurdle 🥇
Rachael Blackmore and Honeysuckle – what an iconic duo!
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) February 6, 2022
Can Anyone Beat Shishkin?
The biggest task of all, if Ireland wants to win all four Championship races, is to beat Shishkin in the Champion Chase, which takes place on the second day of the festival. Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi lead the Irish challenge, while we could also see Envoi Allen take him on too, though that horse has certainly lost his spark over the past 12 months.
Given Chacun Pour Soi’s disappointment at Cheltenham in the past, the task may be down to Energumene. However, when he met Shishkin recently in the Ascot Chase, it was Shishkin that won well, and really stamped his authority on the staying division.
Cheltenham is a very different proposition, a different course, and certainly a change of atmosphere for the horses to cope with, but it is the Irish runner that has to turn the tables. Ireland have the quality to challenge in all four Championship races this season, but it may come down to beating Shishkin as to whether they can win them all or not.