Cheltenham Festival: Three Irish Horses Running This Weekend That Can Feature At Cheltenham

Henry De Bromhead

With just over a month until the Cheltenham Festival, some of the key players will be having their final runs before making the trip to Prestbury Park between March 15-18, and the Irish appear to have a particularly strong hand this year, and some of their leading contenders will have their final prep runs this weekend. Steve Chambers picks out three horses running this weekend that can play a starring role at Cheltenham...

13:40 Naas (Saturday) - Journey With Me - 5/1 for Ballymore Novices' Hurdle

Unbeaten in three starts, Henry De Bromhead's Journey With Me has shaped like he could be a really exciting prospect over the coming years, and the six-year-old will look to make it four from four on Saturday afternoon when he lines up in the Connolly's RED MILLS Irish EBF Auction Novice Hurdle at Naas.

He may have only competed over hurdles on one occasion, but that maiden hurdle victory was a performance full of promise, and the form has been well and truly franked by the horses he beat that day. A three-and-a-half length winner at Leopardstown in late December, Journey With Me scooted clear of Minella Crooner, who was last seen chasing home Minella Cocooner in a Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival last weekend. Behind that pair was the hugely exciting Willie Mullins-trained Kilcruit, who was runner-up in the Champion Bumper at last season's Cheltenham Festival, and he finally broke his hurdling duck last time out with a facile win at Punchestown.

Immediately slashed in the betting following his hurdles debut success, Journey With Me's price has plummeted in recent weeks, and he's now a best-priced 5/1 second favourite for the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle. Also a 14/1 chance for the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, it appears the Ballymore is the target, and if he can build on his hurdles debut win at Naas then he could well challenge Sir Gerhard for Ballymore favouritism.

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Cheltenham Tips

16:00 Naas (Saturday) - Elimay - 6/1 for Mares' Chase

Installed as a red-hot odds-on favourite for the 16:00 at Naas on Saturday, the Willie Mullins-trained Elimay will look to warm up for the Mares' Chase at Cheltenham on March 18 with a comfortable success over the larger obstacles in the BBA Ireland Limited Opera Hat Mares Chase.

A best-priced 6/1 second favourite behind stablemate Concertista in the Mares' Chase ante-post betting, Elimay will be eager to recapture the winning thread at the weekend, as she was last seen being beaten by Mount Ida in a race at Fairyhouse on New Year's Day. Beaten half-a-length that day, she wasn't disgraced when touched off by the former Cheltenham Festival winner, and she will certainly not meet anything in that calibre here.

Narrowly touched off by Colreevy in last season's Mares' Chase, Elimay will be eager to go one better at Cheltenham this time around, and an easy win at Naas should book her place at the Prestbury Park, and it's hard to not see her win on the bridle this weekend.

16:30 Naas (Saturday) - Billaway - 6/1 for Hunters' Chase

Second in the last two renewals of the Hunters' Chase at the Cheltenham Festival, Billaway will hope it's third time lucky when he heads to the 2022 festival on March 18, and the hugely consistent-trained raider will warm up for next month with a trip to Naas on Saturday afternoon.

Runner-up at Thurles on his first start this campaign, the ten-year-old will strip fitter for that outing, and he's likely to be a warm order to get the better of the likes of Ask D'man and stablemate Good Bye Sam, and if he can produce his best form then he looks to be capable of notching his first win of the season.

A best-priced 6/1 market leader for the Hunters' Chase at Cheltenham next month, Billaway has been a real classy performer in the hunter chase arena for a few years now, and he not only finished second at Cheltenham in March, but he was runner-up at the Punchestown Festival.

A real class act, victory this weekend should get him ready for a third crack at the blue riband event for hunters next month, and he is an eye-catching runner in Ireland this weekend.

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Cheltenham Festival 2022
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