Cheltenham Festival 2022: Will Britain win a Grade 1?

Willie Mullins looks like he has another fruitful week ahead.
Willie Mullins looks like he has another fruitful week ahead.

The Cheltenham Festival is nearly upon us, and with a lot of interesting bets coming to the fore, we take a look at one that could spell humiliation for the home side…

Last year, and I’m sure most won’t need reminding, was a bit embarrassing for British horses. They succumbed to the heaviest ever defeat in the Prestbury Cup, winning only five races at Cheltenham as the Irish went back home with the remaining 23 trophies. It could be argued that the writing is already on the wall again this year with Ireland as short as 1/10 to reclaim the Prestbury Cup, but how bad could it really get for British horses? Is there a chance they might not even win a Grade 1? The folks over at Betfair have priced up that exact scenario at 33/1, and we’ve looked through every Grade 1 race to see what chances the home side holds.

Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

One of the more open Grade 1 races at the Festival, there is potential for this bet to fall flat on its face at the proverbial first hurdle. At the time of writing, exactly a week out from the event, the market has it as a four runner race between Willie Mullins’ Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo, and Nicky Henderson’s Constitution Hill and Jonbon. It’s very unlikely that both Irish raiders will turn up here, as one will go and win the Ballymore, but even with a single pronged attack I’d fancy the Irish to claim this one. Jonbon was mildly shaky last time out and Constitution Hill hasn’t yet showed me enough to be fully convinced of his talents (For all he was very impressive in the Tolworth), so it could well be a winning start for Ireland. Add to that, that the next eight in the market, starting with Kilcruit at 7/1 all the way down to Bring On The Night at 25/1 are ALL Irish trained, then even an upset in the opener will likely come from the Emerald Isle.

Verdict: Ireland win

The Arkle

British favourite for this one in Edwardstone. He’s looked brilliant and hasn’t put a foot wrong really, but the measure of his brilliance is hard to gauge, given he’s been beating small runner fields. Third Time Lucki is a good yardstick, but all of Blue Lord, Riviere D’etel and Haut En Couleurs look very very strong, the prior two especially when clashing in the Irish Arkle, and given that they have strength in numbers over the British favourite, then you'll probably want to yet again be in the Irish camp.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Champion Hurdle

Britain has no chance. It really is that simple.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Mares’ Hurdle

Again, no chance. The first ten in the market are all Irish trained, with De Bromhead, Mullins and Elliott all with strong representatives. The best British challenger looks to be Marie’s Rock, who couldn’t even gain market domination over one time Martin Pipe winner Indefatigable last time out in Listed company. Big step up needed, easy Ireland win.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle

As mentioned earlier, whoever out of Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo doesn’t go to the Supreme, will instead win this. They both look like rockets capable of getting the job done over two-mile and two-and-a-half-miles. Stage Star looks to be the best British challenger in a sea of Irish challengers which also includes Ginto, Journey With Me and Minella Cocooner. Not a terrible British representation, but a winning start to day 2 for Ireland.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Cheltenham Festival Tips

Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

No one quite knows for sure where either Bob Olinger or Galopin Des Champs are going to go. If they both go here, Ireland win. If one goes here (Likely the latter), then Ireland win. Bravemansgame is a brilliant horse but the above two are really looking like they could be special. Much like the Albert Bartlett last year, I expect plenty of support for Bavemansgame but another dominant Irish display will put him firmly in his place. Ahoy Senor is another contender for Britain, but he has to think about beating Bravemansgame first before he sets the bar higher at the Irish pair.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Champion Chase

Get the bunting out! This one could well be the thorn in the 33/1 bet’s side. Shishkin looks every bit a superstar and is yet to lose a race in his career when standing. He met Energumene in a thrilling Clarence House in January and, although tight, swatted him to one side. He’s done it before at Cheltenham and just has to do what he has always done to win the Champion Chase here. Energumene is good, very good, but has a point to prove, and Chacun Pour Soi seems to leave most of his ability on the plane whenever he travels. Even Nube Negra offers Britain a great chance at an interesting price.

Verdict: Britain win.

Champion Bumper

Never mind Britain, it may be a pretty grim picture right now and It may look like the Irish have us on strings, but at least we’ve got a plethora of young exciting talent in the Champi…

Ireland dominates it. The favourite Facile Vega looks like a rocket ship, the second-favourite American Mike likewise resembles a piece of NASA technology, and the best British challenger is 14/1 Mullenbeg. I’ll be staggered if Britain wins this.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Turners Novices’ Chase

IF, and it’s a gigantic if, Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs decide to go head-to-head in the Brown Advisory, then this could well be a British win with Venetia Williams’ exciting L’Homme Presse, though the exact same applies if both come here and L'Homme Presse goes to the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase. They probably won’t though, one, again if not both, will come here and win it for Ireland. It’s probably more likely they both come here meaning the Brown Advisory is Britain’s for the taking, but going off current entries and with both of their targets uncertain for now, they both have to go down as Ireland wins.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Ryanair Chase

Allaho is seen by many as the banker of the Festival at 4/7, and he’s trained by Willie Mullins, so yeah…

Verdict: Ireland win.

Stayers’ Hurdle

This one could really go either way. I’m so undecided on my Stayers’ Hurdle pick currently that I could easily make a case for either of Flooring Porter, Thyme Hill, Champ, Klassical Dream, Paisley Park or Asterion Forlonge, a perfect 50/50 split between British and Irish. I was convinced Champ was the winner before Paisley Park beat him in the Cleeve Hurdle, and then I thought Paisley Park could well regain his title but I stopped believing in fairytales some time ago. Klassical Dream looked rock solid until that recent fourth, Flooring Porter is the defending champion but is hard to get excited about. My heart says Britain but my head says Ireland - I'll trust my brain more so than my heart on this one.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Cheltenham Festival Free Bets

Triumph Hurdle 

Vauban, Pied Piper and Fil Dor dominate the betting for this one and are the only single-figure runners at the time of writing. Porticello has looked excellent for Gary Moore but how excellent we will struggle to gauge, the same can be said for Millton Harris’ Knight Salute. All I know is that Vauban looked cut from a different cloth at the Dublin Racing Festival so I'll go to Ireland for this one.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle

A lot of the Ballymore contenders feature again here and a lot of them are of course Irish. Minella Crooner, not to be confused with Minella Cocooner tops the market, but the British trained Hillcrest is not far behind. I really like Hillcrest, his sheer size means he’ll make a brilliant horse for the future but that's not now. If he had another British horse fighting the fight at the top of the market I’d be inclined to give it to Britain, but you have to go down to Stag Horn for the next British challenger so it looks like Hillcrest has a solo, and very tough, task on his hands.

Verdict: Ireland win.

Cheltenham Gold Cup

The final and biggest Grade 1 of the week and It looks like a case of same old, same old. The best British challenge is Protketorat (9/1) for Dan Skelton and Chantry House (16/1) for Nicky Henderson. But for Ireland… A Plus Tard, Galvin, Minella Indo, Al Boum Photo, Conflated, Tornado Flyer all sit bove Chantry House in the market. It’s a pretty wide open event at this stage but you’d expect the winner will come from one of those first four Irish mentioned. I do actually think Protektorat has a huge chance, but again it’s a case of 1 v 4, so you’d have to give the nod to Ireland.

Verdict: Ireland

It looks like another grim old week ahead for the British. Maybe the measly total of five wins will be surpassed but the Grade 1 picture is not a pretty one. Is there value in the bet at 33/1? Well, there’s a few races that are too close to call with huge confidence, the Supreme, Arkle and Stayers’ all look near to level if not a bit in Ireland’s favour, but the fact that the only one you can say will probably win with just an ounce of confidence is Shishkin makes it a pretty interesting bet. If Shishkin was to fall, just not make it up the hill, have a bad passage in running, then this 33/1 suddenly looks like incredible value, so it certainly looks to be worth a couple of quid.

No British Grade 1 Winner At The 2022 Cheltenham Festival (ODDS BOOST)
Odds correct as of 2022-03-08 12:45 Odds subject to change.
Cheltenham Festival 2022
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