Once again, horse racing fans are gearing up for the Cheltenham Festival, one of the most hotly anticipated events on the sporting calendar.
Four days of racing’s best squaring off in some of the most competitive races of the year. The unpredictability of the jump racing season is exemplified at Cheltenham, and with the coronavirus pandemic forcing last year’s Festival behind closed doors, this will be the first time spectators have been in attendance since 2020 — just a week before the country entered a national lockdown.
That aforementioned unpredictability means betting for Cheltenham 2022 is a particularly difficult task. It’s down to the work of the trainers to get their horses prepared for any occasion, and a good trainer can prove the difference between a place on the podium or not. Read on, as we go through some of the trainers to look out for this year at Cheltenham.
Henry de Bromhead
What a four days it was for Henry de Bromhead this time last year. The Irishman would hardly have expected to enjoy the purple patch he did, with seemingly everything he touched turning to gold. Heading into the Festival, we were all aware of how strong the County Waterford stable was, possessing a plethora of previous Grade One winners, but few would have imagined how dominant De Bromhead would be — picking up an impressive treble of the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup. His best hope of success this year comes in the Champion Hurdle, where the unbeaten Honeysuckle looks certain to retain the title, with Rachael Blackmore looking to win consecutive Leading Jockey awards.
In complete juxtaposition to De Bromhead, last year at Cheltenham would have been strange for Gordon Elliott, who was serving a six-month ban after images were released of him sitting on a dead horse. The County Meath-based trainer will be eager to try and restore his reputation as one of the best in the business, and with 32 winners at Cheltenham, he’ll want to add to that as quickly as possible and make up for lost time. Elliott’s best race is the National Hunt Chase — one he’s been successful in four times — but with Conflated’s recent win in the Irish Gold Cup, and Tiger Roll potentially running for the last time in the Cross County Chase, Elliott certainly has the chance to write his name in the history books once again after a brief hiatus.
The Irish have dominated proceedings at Cheltenham in recent years as far as big winners are concerned, and Willie Mullins is no exception. He heads to Prestbury Park as the most successful trainer in the Festival’s history, saddling 65 winners in a career spanning over 25 years. Indeed, 2020 was Mullins’ silver anniversary of racing and while he celebrated it by picking up a plethora of accolades including the Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo, it would be the last time he would get to enter the winner’s podium in front of spectators for the best part of 18 months. It’s impossible to overlook Mullins for more success this year as well, simply due to the sheer quality of his stable and the rich experience he boasts in the variety of Grade One races.