After the 2021 renewal was held behind closed doors, the Cheltenham Festival has returned with its iconic roar – and already, fans and punters alike have been treated to some thrilling racing action.
Day three of the meeting includes three Grade 1 races with all eyes turning to the feature races: the Festival Trophy and Stayers’ Hurdle. One man who has been there and done that is former jockey Ruby Walsh. An 11-time leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival, the Irishman recently shared his tips on Paddy Power’s ‘From The Horse’s Mouth’ podcast.
Read on to gain some professional insights, before you choose to place your 2022 Cheltenham bets.
13:30 – Turner’s Novices’ Chase
This Grade 1 race for Novices features a small field of four, and it’s set to be an epic battle between Henry de Bromhead’s Bob Olinger and Willie Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs. While the former is the favourite, Walsh has his eyes on the latter, who he believes is the better jumper.
“I’ve always been in the Willie Mullins camp. Galopin Des Champs is a faster horse and a brilliant jumper. I have huge respect for Bob Olinger but his jumping just hasn’t been as good as I’d like it to be.”
14:10 – Pertemps Handicap Hurdle
The Pertemps Final caps off the 21 long-distance qualifying races which are run throughout the jumps season prior to the Festival, and often, horses that feature here go on to make their name over fences. A large field means it could be an open race, but there’s one horse in particular that Walsh has his eyes on – Alaphilippe (13/2).
“He had a really good run at Warwick last time out in January. His form before that holds up too. He’ll do me in an open race.”
14:50 – Festival Trophy
It’s the day’s first big one! With Mullins dominating the race card, with favourite Allaho, and outside chances Janadil and Melon among the entries, it looks like there could only be one winner. Walsh is picking the favourite Allaho, who won last year’s renewal by 12 lengths.
“If Allaho runs anything like he did last year, that should be more than enough to win this race. He has the pace to blow this race apart. I don’t think that suits Conflated, with the Irish Gold Cup ran at a slower pace. Allaho can just go and put the rest under immense pressure. I can’t see beyond him.”
15:30 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle
The Grade 1 Stayers’ Hurdle is the race for long-distance hurdlers, and this year’s race is wide open. Last year’s winner Flooring Porter for trainer Danny Cromwell is the favourite, and both Mullins and Nicky Henderson boast entries amongst the frontrunners. Walsh is predicting this to be a win for the Brits – plumping for Champ, who’s won once already this season.
“The occasion is a big one for Flooring Porter and Klassical Dream. The ground will be key too. If it stays dry, it suits Champ. He won in May and June as a novice hurdler.”
16:10 – Plate Handicap Hurdle
A large field of 22 will enter this handicap chase, and it’s looking like another close encounter – with Elliott amongst the hopefuls. Celebre d’Allen is unbeaten this season, but the favourite – and Walsh’s punt – is Alan King’s The Glancing Queen. Talking about the mare, Walsh said:
“She’s impressed over fences this season, winning at Bangor and Warwick. She was beaten by L’Homme Presse in the Dipper last time out but she can win this.”
16:50 – Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
This race was first introduced in 2016, and as the leading jockey with back-to-back wins in its inaugural year and 2017 on board horses from Mullins’s yard, who else would Walsh be tipping? The former jockey reckons Grangee (each way):
“I don’t fancy anything at a big price so I’m looking at the top end of the betting. Dinoblue bolted up at Clonmel but experience could catch her out. Brandy Love likes going left so that could help but I’m not sold. Party Central is a closer and has a real chance but I’m going to side with Grangee in an each-way punt just because there’s more value on offer.”
17:30 – Kim Muir Handicap Chase
The day’s final race sees a bumper 24 entries take the field, and with the exclusion of last year’s renewal when covid restrictions and regulations only permitted professional jockeys to feature – this is a race for amateurs. School Boy Hours is among the favourites and is Walsh’s final tip for the day:
“I’m a fan of School Boy Hours. He ran a blinder in the Paddy Power Chase at Leopardstown in December and I don’t think Ben Dundee did that form any harm on Tuesday. Derek O’Connor is on board which is always a bonus.”