Cheltenham 2017: Straight from the horses’ mouths

Darragh Ó Sé, Willie Penrose, Jerry Kiernan, Paddy Power and Willie McCreery have their say

 

Willie Penrose (Labour TD)

Bet Of Meeting

Yorkhill in the JLT is my banker. He comes to himself at this time of year with a bit of good ground.

Lay Of Meeting

I’d love if Edwulf (National Hunt Chase) could win for Joseph O’Brien but I don’t see him jumping well enough.

Leading Jockey

I thought Barry Geraghty would do it but he’s injured. So I suppose Ruby (Walsh) is the obvious one. My late grandmother always said ‘never mind the horse, back the jockey!

Number of Irish Winners

Anything between 12 and 15 and we’d be doing well. The likes of Henderson and Nicholls over there are getting their act together.

Most Looking Forward To

I love the small man getting some success, someone like Pat Kelly who won with Mall Dini last year. And Michael O’Leary winning is great for Westmeath. It’s always a boost, makes us think we might do well in the football this year!

How To Improve Festival

I haven’t gone in 15 years. I like to roam at the races, a bit of freedom, and the crowds at Cheltenham now are huge. It’s highly commercialised. They should limit the crowds.

Jerry Kiernan (Olympic Athlete & TV Pundit)

Bet Of Meeting

It’s not just sentiment that makes me think On The Fringe will win the Foxhunters again. I thought he was very good at Leopardstown behind Foxrock. Only a lack of fitness beat him.

Lay Of Meeting

Cue Card will not win the Gold Cup. Sentiment is an expensive emotion betting at Cheltenham.

Leading Jockey

It has to be Ruby. I think Willie Mullins will be leading trainer again so Ruby will be leading jockey.

Number of Irish Winners

At least 10.

Most Looking Forward To

I really love the championship races. I’d love if Sizing John won the Gold Cup because on my one and only Olympics in 1984 Jessica Harrington was also on the Irish team.

How To Improve Festival

That would be gilding the lily. I love everything about Cheltenham. For me it’s the Champions League final and the Olympics.

Paddy Power (Bookmaker)

Bet Of Meeting

The more I think about it, the more I fancy Yanworth in the Champion Hurdle. He never looks flashy but I get the feeling we haven’t been to the bottom of him yet. I also like Native River in the Gold Cup.

Lay Of Meeting

Death Duty will be an Irish banker in the Albert Bartlett on Friday but I think the ground will have dried up plenty by then and it’s a much tougher race than the betting suggests.

Leading Jockey

Ruby Walsh.

Number of Irish Winners

11 - Still loads, but a bit less than last year.

Most Looking Forward To

The ‘off’ of the first race: the build up always gets me too excited too early. It could also be quite entertaining, and frustrating, to see the Guinness Village implement the new Cheltenham guidelines allowing a maximum of four pints per round.

How To Improve Festival

A fifth day? More/better bar staff? If there was some way to have horses committed to specific races earlier it would save confusion, but then the build up might be boring.

Darragh Ó Sé (All-Ireland Winner & GAA Pundit)

Bet Of Meeting

I think Dan Skelton’s runner in the Champion Hurdle, Ch’Tibello, is a good longshot. 25-1 is a bit of value.

Lay Of Meeting

What I love about Cheltenham is there’s no shadow-boxing. Everyone’s out to win so there are some great each way chances. I always prefer the second favourite to an odds-on shot. Having said, that, Douvan and Altior are machines.

Leading Jockey

I’d love Bryan Cooper to have a good week but I think the main man will be JP (McManus) and especially with his English based horses. So someone like Mark Walsh could be a good bet.

Number of Irish Winners

I think we’ll do well to get close to 10. Nicky Henderson is coming into form and the English horses look good this year.

Most Looking Forward To

I’m looking forward to Willie Mullins winning the Gold Cup. That would be a special occasion. And I think Djakadam has a great chance in what looks a weak enough Gold Cup.

How To Improve Festival

I’ve been to Cheltenham a few times and you have to be there to appreciate the drag up that hill and the ground shaking underneath you as they go past. That still doesn’t come across on the TV coverage so maybe that could be better.

Willie McCreery (Trainer & ex-Kildare footballer)

Bet Of Meeting

Running Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair is the right call rather than taking on Douvan. He’ll get to jump in his own time.

Lay Of Meeting

Altior has been doing it all in his own time up now and he won’t get that at Cheltenham.

Leading Jockey

Probably Ruby, although it might tricker than it usually is for him.

Number of Irish Winners

I think 9-2 about beating the English is a great bet because we might have 15 or more. Gordon Elliott could get six or seven. So could Willie. Jessie has a strong hand. So does Henry De Bromhead. And I’d love Sandra Hughes to get a winner. It’s a very strong team.

Most Looking Forward To

I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the young jockeys get on. I think Jack Kennedy is a great rider and he and David Mullins are two smashing youngfellas who make great role-models.

How To Improve Festival

Bring it back to three days. They’re making up races now. And all it does is prolong the pain!

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