Irish raiders 6-1 to set new Cheltenham record of 20 winners or more

Aidan O’Brien’s Mendelssohn in line to start road to Kentucky Derby at Dundalk

Willie Mullins with Douvan, who could return in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Willie Mullins with Douvan, who could return in the Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The strength in depth of the Irish challenge for next week’s Cheltenham festival means it is 6-1 the raiders secure a new record haul of 20 or more winners.

The 2017 festival ended with an unprecedented final score of 19-9 to Ireland in the famous Anglo-Irish rivalry at Cheltenham.

That was a considerable jump on the previous best of 14 winners in 2016 and 2013, and light years removed from the infamous ‘blank’ the visitors endured at Cheltenham in 1989.

Top English trainer Nicky Henderson has the ante-post favourites for the three big festival prizes in Buveur D’Air (Champion Hurdle,) Altior (Champion Chase) and Might Bite (Gold Cup).

But one firm reckons that with both Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott again travelling in force, the Irish will enjoy a bumper festival.

RaceBets are odds on(10-11) about Ireland securing 14 winners or less and 5-2 about 15 or 16 winners. However they go just 6-1 about breaking last year’s record with 20 or more victories.

They also reckon it is 10-1 about Elliott, the leading trainer at last year’s festival, saddling a 1-2-3 in any race at Cheltenham.

“Mullins and Elliott combined supplied 43 per cent of all winners at the 2017 festival alone. Both go into this year’s Cheltenham with very strong chances. Outside of the pair, only Nicky Henderson trades at under 40-1 in betting for leading trainer next week,” said a spokesman.

Gordon Elliott is 10/1 to saddle a 1-2-3 at the Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA
Gordon Elliott is 10/1 to saddle a 1-2-3 at the Cheltenham Festival. Photograph: Mike Egerton/PA

Schooling for Cheltenham hopefuls will be available after racing at Leopardstown on Friday should the meeting get the go-ahead.

The track is currently “unfit for racing” due to snow cover. However a significant thaw is expected through the week. Should it get the green light schooling will be open only to horses going to Cheltenham or who are set to run at the Fairyhouse Easter festival at the end of the month.

Ireland has had a racing blank since Sunday week last but hopes remain that action can resume this Thursday after the freezing weather conditions.

Navan is currently unfit for racing but the situation is being monitored while the going at Thurles is “heavy.” The forecast is for milder conditions for later this week.

Classic considerations might seem a remote concept on the eve of Cheltenham but Friday night’s Dundalk card could have significant implications for May’s Kentucky Derby.

Aidan O’Brien has five of the ten entries left in the Listed Patton Stakes which is part of the European section of the ‘Road To Kentucky’ series.

The Ballydoyle entry includes their Breeders Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn who is as low as 20-1 in some lists to become the first European trained winner of America’s most famous race.

Also in the list of possible contenders is the Champagne winner Seahenge and Threeandfourpence who ran fourth to US Navy Flag in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket last October.

The ‘Run for the Roses’ takes place in Louisville on May 5th.

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