The Cheltenham Festival meeting is a week where history is often made in the sport, whether that is by a horse, jockey or trainer.
This year’s Festival is likely to allow for more history makers as there are some great storylines going into the meeting. Here is a look at some of names who could steal the headlines.
Al Boum Photo Bidding for Third Cheltenham Gold Cup
Only four horses in the history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup have been able to win the Blue Riband contest three times. Al Boum Photo has another chance to add his name to that list this year.
Best Mate was the last horse to land a hat-trick in the Gold Cup in 2004. Since then, the likes of Kauto Star, Denman and Long Run have all failed to match that feat. The 2019 and 2020 winner goes into the race this year with strong claims.
Al Boum Photo has taken his usual route to Cheltenham this year. He has had just one appearance prior to the Festival. He won the Savills New Year’s Day Chase by four lengths. On the back of that success, he is +750 in today’s horse racing results and odds to regain his crown in the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Willie Mullins’ runner is a horse who has not always received the credit he has deserved for what he is achieved. A third Gold Cup would change that, as it would cement his position as one of the greatest chasers of the modern generation.
Rachael Blackmore Eyeing Ruby Walsh’s Record
With six winners at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, Rachael Blackmore ended the meeting as the leading jockey, taking away the Ruby Walsh Trophy. The Irish jockey could be set for even more success this year.
Ruby Walsh holds the record for the most winners at a single meeting. He finished the week with seven winners in 2009. He then did the same in 2016 in what was another fantastic Festival for the jockey.
The week should start well for Blackmore as she partners Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle on day one of the meeting. The defending champion is odds-on to prevail in the premier 2m hurdle contest. Later in the week, she is set to jump on board A Plus Tard, the favorite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
An eighth Cheltenham Festival success at the same meeting looks within Blackmore’s reach. Last season’s Grand National-winning jockey is used to making history in the sport now. Expect to see her raise the bar in 2022.
Tiger Roll Looking for Sixth Cheltenham Festival Success
Dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll produced one of the most memorable moments from the 2021 Cheltenham Festival when he won the Cross Country Chase for the third time. Gordon Elliott’s runner is a five-time winner at the meeting, as he has also prevailed in the Triumph Hurdle and National Hunt Chase Challenge Cup.
At the age of 12, Tiger Roll is now at the back end of his career, but he often produces his best at Cheltenham, particularly on the cross-country course. If he is victorious in the marathon contest again this year, he will match what Quevega achieved in 2016 by winning at the Festival for a sixth time.
Challengers to the reigning Cross Country Chase champion include the highly regarded French horse Prengarde. It is going to be fascinating to see those horses face each other across the unique course.
A shot at a record matching third Grand National may still be on the cards for Tiger Roll in April, but before then, Cheltenham is his priority. He would create the biggest cheer of the week if he comes home in front again.
Mullins Set to extend Cheltenham Record
Irish trainer Mullins has had a record 78 Cheltenham Festival winners throughout his career. It won’t be long before he reaches the magical 100 number, which could come over the next few years.
Mullins is set to travel to the meeting with a strong team of horses this year. If everything goes to plan, he may have his best Festival for a long time. He also looks in with a great chance of being the leading trainer.
Galopin Des Champs is arguably Mullins best chance across the week. The unbeaten chaser tops the betting for the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase on day two. He also has leading claims in some of the Championship races, including with Appreciate It and Al Boum Photo in the Champion Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup respectively.
The Irish dominated the 2021 Festival and Mullins can play his part in ensuring the Prestbury Cup returns to Ireland at the end of the 28 races.
Day one of the 2022 Cheltenham Festival takes place on the 15th March and the meeting runs through to Gold Cup Day on the 18th March.