Its certainly come around quickly but the Cheltenham Festival is back on the horizon, serving as one of the major events on the horse racing calendar. With last year being overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, races were forced to take place behind closed doors, and as the country was still in the midst of lockdown it was a shame that spectators couldn’t be present. However, this year will see spectators return to Prestbury Park, eagerly checking the Cheltenham tips 2022 in hopes of picking a winner.
There’s always that aura of unpredictability around the big races. Whether it be the Ryanair Chase, Champion Hurdle or even the Gold Cup, its always hard to pick a definitive winner as the form guide is essentially tossed out of the window.
It doesn’t matter what has happened before as long as the trainer, jockey and horse all turn up and are in sync, the possibility of an upset is always on the cards. The role of the jockey certainly can get overlooked, with their performance sometimes proving the difference between victory and painstaking defeat. Let’s take a look at some of the jockeys you should be keeping an eye on this year at the Cheltenham Festival.
What a four days it proved to be for Rachel Blackmore last year. While most of the talk surrounding the star jockey was her Grand National exploits, she also enjoyed a wonderful Cheltenham Festival, most notably winning the Champion Hurdle for Henry De Bromhead aboard the unbeaten Honeysuckle.
12 months on and the mare has maintained a 100% record, and realistically it will prove hard for anyone to stop the pair given how valiantly they performed at Leopardstown in the build up to this year’s race. Expect Blackmore to be right up there for consecutive wins, as she’ll also be looking to retain the Ryanair Chase and Novices’ Hurdle in a bid to win jockey of the year for a second time.
The biggest upset over the Christmas period certainly came in the King George VI Chase, when 28/1 outsider Tornado Flyer shocked the likes of Clan Des Obeaux to earn victory for Willie Mullins. His nephew Danny was aboard the nine-year-old and it will be interesting to see if lightning strikes twice as they enter the Ryanair Chase and Gold Cup. Mullins has said winning King George felt like a dream, so you can only imagine his reaction if he can pull another rabbit out of the hat come Cheltenham.
"Winning a King George is something you dream about.” He said: “You look at the likes of Kauto Star and the other horses that have won it. For Tornado Flyer to go and put in a performance like that is magic.”
You could argue that Paul Townend is the jockey with the most to prove this year at Cheltenham. With Blackmore almost overshadowing all the good work he’d done towards the back end of 2020 and the beginning of the new year, he’ll be keen to remind people just how good he is — especially with spectators present. Townsend’s reputation proceeds itself at Cheltenham and recent wins in the Dublin Chase with Chacun Pour Soi and Blue Sari at Gowran Park stand him in good stead ahead of this year’s Festival. The pressure is on him to compete for the Top Jockey award.