Gear up, it’s Cheltenham time; Schmidt looking to tick off one final box

Morning Sports Briefing: Keep ahead of the game with ‘The Irish Times’ sports team

A view of horses out on the gallops ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

A view of horses out on the gallops ahead of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

The biggest week of the racing year has arrived. That’s right, we’re back at the point of the year where everyone is a tipster, new account special offers are being gobbled up like the free money they claim to be, your mate’s dad’s best mate can tell you for certain that he knows a trainer who has a horse who will 100% definitely win the third race of the day and water cooler conversations in work are to be avoided at all costs lest you hear an alternative to the sure fire tip you have already backed. Yep, it’s Cheltenham week. The action gets underway today at 1.30pm in Prestbury Park with the Champion Hurdle taking centre stage among four Grade 1 races on the first day. Our man in the Cotswolds is Brian O’Connor and he writes this morning that Laurina can prove she’s the real deal and become just the fifth mare ever to claim Champion Hurdle honours. Elsewhere you can find Patrick Madden’s all you need to know guide to the Festival which will leave you with no more questions to ask and you can also join our liveblog of all the action from 1pm. You can also read Brian O’Connor’s day one preview from the racecourse as well as his interview with Barry Geraghty 20 years on from his Festival debut. Finally, if you fancy a flutter, take a look at Tony Keenan’s day one tips.

On to rugby and we’re not far out now from the final weekend of the Six Nations when Wales will look to complete a Grand Slam, Ireland will look to stop them and hope that, if Scotland can do a favour, retain the Championship title. If Joe Schmidt has done virtually everything during his time in charge of Ireland, the one thing he has failed to do is beat Wales on home soil. On Saturday he will look to do that in his final Six Nations match against the near neighbourse and he admits it is a box he would very much like to tick off. But Wales and Warren Gatland will be determined to make sure that that does not happen if they are to claim the Grand Slam. In his column this morning Gerry Thornley writes that the fixtures have fallen nicely for Gatland and his team but that they have still be extremely impressive to put themselves in this position. In domestic rugby, the 2019/20 Pro14 season will start a month later than normal this year and games will continue during the Rugby World Cup. The competition will kick off on Friday, September 27th and there will be three rounds of games before a break for the weekend of the World Cup quarter-finals on October 19th and 20th.

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