Cheltenham Top Jockey Odds: Townend and Blackmore lead the way

Al Boum Photo Paul Townend Gold Cup Celebration

Irish jockeys, like the trainers, have dominated the Cheltenham Festival over the last decade and the Top Jockey title has headed back across the Irish sea in seven of the last eight years. The betting in 2022 indicates a repeat is likely, with the first British rider in the betting priced at 7/1 before kick off on March 15. We have analysed the contenders here...

Paul Townend - 5/4

The favourite for the Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey award before the tape drops for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle almost always Willie Mullins' stable jockey, and this year is no exception with Paul Townend heading the field. With Mullins having been Champion Trainer eight times in his illustrious career, Ruby Walsh was usually the beneficiary before his retirement. After taking the mantle of Closutton's number one, Townend annually has a seriously strong book of rides heading into the Festival and this year is no exception. He is the 5/4 favourite with the bookmakers six weeks out and barring injury Townend should have favourites such as Galopin Des Champs (Brown Advisory Novices' Chase) and Allaho (Ryanair Chase) beneath him at Prestbury Park.

The reason Townend is not as strong in the market as Mullins is for the Top Trainer title could be that two antepost favourites trained at Closutton are in the Munir and Suede ownership and they employ Daryl Jacob as their retained rider. Townend could miss out on two winners due to this partnership, in the shape of Blue Lord in the Arkle and Concertista in the Mares' Chase. However, he still has a favourite's chance and deserves his place at the head of the market here.

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Rachael Blackmore - 3/1

Last year's Festival and Grand National heroine Rachael Blackmore is currently second in the betting to retain her Top Jockey crown in 2022.. Her victory aboard Quilixios in the Triumph Hurdle saw her reach six winners and finish up just one short of the all time record last season, with her Champion Hurdle victory aboard superstar mare Honeysuckle the undoubted highlight. Ever the competitor, Blackmore's Festival was ended on an almost sour note as she chose the wrong De Bromhead ride in the Gold Cup, with Jack Kennedy finished ahead of her mount A Plus Tard aboard Minella Indo to claim racing's blue riband. This season she will have her pick of De Bromhead's challengers once again, and with the week's banker Honeysuckle in her arsenal she is already as close as anyone to being on the winners board at this stage six weeks out.

Bob Olinger was another fiendishly impressive winner for the Blackmore and De Bromhead team in last season's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle who is set to be a short priced favourite for the Turner's Novices' Chase this season, and if she rides Prestbury Park as imperiously as at the 2021 showpiece, she will put up a brilliant fight to hold onto the trophy. 

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Davy Russell - 5/1

Next in the betting is one of the last of the old guard of the gang of riding greats such as McCoy, Geraghty and Walsh in Davy Russell. The veteran jockey rides Cheltenham as well as anyone in the weighing room and always rises to the big occasion, and this season should be no exception at Cheltenham. Coupled with his phenomenal riding ability, Russell should have a handy book of rides heading into March, despite not being able to take the ride on Run Wild Fred  in the National Hunt Chase due to his professional status. However, a horse he has ridden in every start of his burgeoning career so far is Fil Dor (Triumph Hurdle) and he surely will have a leading chance of being crowned the best juvenile around with victory on the Friday.

Russell is always highly sought after in handicaps due to his remarkable record at Cheltenham, and with Irish runners dominating such contests to the extent they have in recent years he is sure to be in the mix to scoop some of the non graded pots throughout the week. Writing off Russell would be foolish but perhaps his price of 5/1 is a tad on the skinny side.

Nico De Boinville - 7/1

The first British representative on this list is the stable jockey of super trainer Nicky Henderson, Nico De Boinville. Undoubtedly the most likely winner not from the Emerald Isle, De Boinville has what looks at the moment to be a packed full of potential book of rides for the Festival thanks to the Seven Barrows tea. Kicking off the week in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, he will be aboard favourite Constitution Hill and will be looking to get off to the perfect start aboard the exciting novice. Something which may hinder his chances is the presence of his stablemate Jonbon in the same race!

The next day he should be aboard racing's latest superstar Shishkin in the Champion Chase who after his win for the ages over Energumene at Ascot in the Clarence House will be a deserved odds-on shot to stamp himself as the king of the two milers this campaign. The handicap domination by Team Ireland could be where De Boinville's challenge for the Top Jockey title falls down, but at 7/1 he makes slightly more appeal than his predecessor in the market at this stage.

Best Of The Rest

There are still a host of elite level jockeys in with a shout beneath the main four protagonists, none more so than last year's Gold Cup hero and winner of the (unofficial) ride of the year Jack Kennedy (8/1). He was aboard Minella Indo as he romped to Gold Cup glory and denied Blackmore a slice of history on A Plus Tard, while also producing a stunning win aboard Mount Ida in the Kim Muir earlier in the week when she looked destined to need pulling up. Mark Walsh (12/1) could have a big part to play in proceedings if JP McManus has a stunning week of ownership but would need all the stars to align, while Patrick Mullins (16/1) will barring injury to Townend simply not have the quantity nor quality of rides to climb atop the ladder. 

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