THE Cheltenham Festival is back in person this week – which is basically Christmas for racing fans across Britain and Ireland.
You will no doubt be hearing tips from all corners as to who is likely to win the top prizes on offer at the annual race meet but only a few truly know what they're talking about when it comes to spying a winner or two.
With horses like Champ, Honeysuckle and Tiger Roll all set to race over the duration of the festival – which runs from March 12-15 - it promises to be one hell of a spectacle.
One man who does know his stuff around horses and the festival itself is Ireland's Ruby Walsh.
Speaking to the Irish Post this week, on behalf of racingtv.com, the former jockey, who retired from the sport in 2019 after a 24-year career, revealed his top tips for Cheltenham 2022.
The Kildare native was the leading jockey 11 times at the festival, notching up 59 winners and twice winning the Gold Cup.
Here is his selection for next week’s action….
Potential line-up for the opening day:
Run Wild Fred#CheltenhamFestival https://t.co/DcWQzbLGYg pic.twitter.com/bO3Tn5992d
— bet365 (@bet365) February 22, 2022
1.30pm Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (can't call)
"It depends on which one Willie Mullins runs, Sir Gerhard or Dysart Dynamo.
“I imagine one will run here and one will run in the the Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.
“It does look a very deep race, you have Kilcruit for Willie as well, who looked unlucky in last year's Champion Bumper, who was very good in Punchestown in his last start.
“Nicky Henderson has a few aces up his sleeve as well. I have been a huge fan of Jonbons.
“I loved him in Newbury when he won. I thought he got the job done at Ascot and then you have Constitution Hill, who looks exceptional.
“It's going to be a cracking race to open the festival, guaranteed pace with either Dysart Dynamo or Kilcruit Jonbons or Constitution Hill looks like they'd have no problem staying, so it will be a massive curtain raiser.
“But it looks like one ultimately that the bookmakers will be winning whatever way you look at it, with so many horses well fancied."
2.10pm Sporting Life Arkle Novices’ Chase (Edwardstone)
"You have one outstanding English horse in Edwardstone and you the next seven in the betting are Irish, ready to take him on, in Blue Lord, Riviere D’etel, Haut En Couleurs, Saint Sam, Ciel De Neige, Coeur Sublime, Magic Daze.
“Not all will run, but it is just a shift in trend.
“Edwardstone was rock solid. I thought he was very good at Sandown, backed it up at Kempton and was very proffesional at Warwick on his last start and he does he set the standard, it will be a big ride for Tom Cannon.
“Obviously Blue Lord and Riviere D’etel, there's not a lot between them.
“Haut En Couleurs ran a cracker last year at triumph and Saint Sam made a few sticky mistakes at Leopardstown that he will have to brush up on if he is to be competitive in this race.
“Coeur Sublime is a dark horse. Then you throw in Magic Daze who likes to race forward, along with Saint Sam and Riviere D’etel.
“The five-year-olds have a pretty average record - Riviere D’etel, Haut En Couleurs, Saint Sam.
“It's been a while since a five-year-old won the race, but trends are meant to be broken
“With all said and done, it's very easy to see why Edwardstone is favourite.
“If you're looking for value it probably does lie in Haut En Couleurs or Saint Sam
“That will be a cracking contest."
3.30pm Unibet Champion Hurdle (Honeysuckle)
"It will revolve all around Honeysuckle. She's odds on, she deserves to be, she's 14 from 14."
“She's an incredible mare, she's got a great turn of foot, she's got incredible stamina, she seems straightforward to ride.”
"He added; “From a betting point of view it looks like betting without a race. Appreciate it, Teahupoo, Epatante, Adagio, Zanahiyr, even Tommy's Oscar, who has improved upon all measure, they are all decent horses, but the problem is their running into a champion.
“I think after people missing out on Cheltenham last year, if Honeysuckle was to deliver in front of a sell-out crowd on Tuesday afternoon I think she would get the reception she missed last year and truly deserved.
“She's a brilliant mare, my heart wants Appreciate it to win but it won't stop me from standing there in adulation of Honeysuckle if she were to win."
"I wouldn’t mind being on her back to walk back in front of the crowd, not in the race.""
Honeysuckle at home! The calm before the storm of next Tuesday's Champion Hurdle 👑 pic.twitter.com/2PDjf48ph9
— At The Races (@AtTheRaces) March 9, 2022
4.10pm - Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Stormy Ireland)
"I thought she was really good in the Relkeel and I thought she was good at Fairyhouse and Punchestown."
"She has run well at the meeting in the past and I think this is the weakest Mares’ Hurdle she has run in."
4.50pm - Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Interne De Sivola.)
"Gaelic Warrior is a nice horse, he stays well and has plenty of gears."
"He does look to have a favourable mark given what he has achieved and what he has shown us at home."
"You’d hope he would be better than a mark of 129, but you could make that case for a lot of horses."
"Why would you back a horse at 5-2 in a 22-runner handicap hurdle at Cheltenham. I think there is no value in him at 5-2 and I like Interne De Sivola."
5.30pm - Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Chase (Vannillier)
"Stattler is a good horse and a good jumper. Has he the profile? No. I would prefer Vannillier who has more runs over fences."
1.30pm - Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Dysart Dynamo and Sir Gerhard)
"Dysart Dynamo and Sir Gerhard are likely to be split up and whichever one runs here will win."
♟️ The chess game continues with Willie Mullins confirming 8 entries for the Supreme.
Bring On The Night
🤷♂️ Will Sir Gerhard go for the Supreme or Ballymore? pic.twitter.com/isE8DxqpH5
— oddschecker Racing (@oddsRacing) March 9, 2022
2.10pm Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (Ahoy Senor)
"Bravemansgame is a brilliant jumper and quickened up very sharply at Kempton. I think he is a fabulous horse and I think he will win a King George."
"Will he get three miles here? I think it depends how hard they go up front. If Ahoy Senor is dragging him along, I think Ahoy Senor might outstay him."
2.50pm - Coral Cup Saint Felicien
"Saint Felicien if he runs for me. The race he won at Gowran Park this year has thrown up some really interesting horses. There is a good roll of honour from that event."
3.30pm Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Shishkin)
"Shishkin is a hell of a racehorse, he has proven in the past that he can win when staring defeat in the eye."
“You know he has guts, has stamina and is going to be so simple to ride here. I think he will be very hard to beat."
“I think if you put Shishkin and Energumene in the same position that Chacun Pour Soi found himself in when coming down the inside in the Champion Chase last year, turning into the home straight with Put The Kettle On, Chacun Pour Soi didn’t win and I think he has something to prove here."
“I believe if either Shishkin or Energumene were in that position they would have won that race."
“Nube Negra has an each-way shout, but I think the race resolves around Shishkin."
"In fairness to Nicky Henderson, it looks like he's found another one in Shishkin."
4.10pm Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (Tiger Roll)
"I’m with Tiger Roll. I think he is rock-solid on the Cross-Country course. He is a better horse in the spring and I think it is going to be funny almost."
5.30pm Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Facile Vega).
"Facile Vega has been exceptional. He was brilliant at Christmas, he was very good at the Dublin racing festival."
“Gordon Elliott and Jamie Codd are exceptional judges and both are not hiding their admiration for American Mike."
"That's the beauty of Cheltenham, Willie and Patrick love Facile Vega, Jamie and Gordon love America Mike."
“They are two big names taking each other on and I can't wait to watch it."
"I'm in the Facile Vega camp, but I have been in the wrong camp plenty of times in my life."
1.30pm Turners Novices’ Chase (Galopin Des Champ)
Turners Novices’ Chase, 1.30pm - Galopin Des Champs
"We are getting the clash that not everybody saw coming between Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs.
“Bob Olinger was brilliant in the Ballymore last year and how he went to the line was outstanding.
“Galopin Des Champs won the Martin Pipe and then won the Daily Mirror Novice Hurdle.
“I know Henry De Bromhead and Racheal Blackmore think Bob Olinger is the second coming and I did think he was as a novice hurdler, but I have loved what I have seen of Galopin Des Champs over fences.
“I love the speed at which he jumps at, the attack of the fences, the speed of the line.
“I'll be looking forward to the Turners, but my feet are in the Mullins camp and that is where my heart will be."
2.10pm - Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (If The Cap Fits)
"If The Cap Fits was second to Brewin’upastorm at Aintree in November off 150 and is now down to a mark of 137.
His mark is plummeting and I think he has a chance here."
3.30pm Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (Champ)
"My opinion keeps changing on this race.
“Flooring Porter and Klassical Dream live on the edge and live off their nerves, while Paisley Park is the opposite.
“I had Paisley Park written off, but he impressed at Cheltenham.
“I thought Champ winning at Ascot was the one. I thought after Aintree Thyme Hill had it, but he blew out at Goran Park.
“I can see myself standing in the parade ring not being shocked by who has won the race, but also not having tipped it.
“I would not be surprised if the 10-year-old Champ puts his best foot forward.
“Because I can't pick winner for it I’m going to come down on Champ’s side.
“But it's a race I can't wait to watch."
Galopin Des Champs
🇮🇪 One week to go until St. Patrick's Day at the Cheltenham Festival. pic.twitter.com/1A6Csq8XHA
— bet365 (@bet365) March 10, 2022
4.50pm Parnell Properties Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Night And Day, maybe)
"Dinoblue was impressive last time out and is the one I am with. However, Night And Day is one to note."
"She has never run for Willie Mullins, which is interesting, but I wouldn’t put anyone off Night And Day."
"She does work well and I wouldn’t be surprised if Willie ran her. I wouldn’t think she is a 50-1 shot in that event."
5.30pm Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (School Boy Hours)
"School Boy Hours. He won the Paddy Power, is off 142 and I think he will shorten from 14-1. I like him.
1.30pm Triumph Hurdle (Il Etait Temps)
It's been billed as the showdown between Pied Piper and Vauban and Willie and Gordon.
Triumphs are funny races and whilst the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle have made this a proper Grade One race, I think Knight Salute is a good horse, Porticello is a strong stayer and Doctor Parnassus won over a longer trip last time out.
“I think it makes for a better race to be honest. If you were talking about a rugby player or a soccer player with no experience and you threw him in the deep end, you'd stand up and notice it.
“If you looked at what Il Etait Temps did in his first performance for Willie, I thought that was a great run over hurdles, when third to Vauban on his debut thrown into a Grade One.
“I don’t see this as the match that everyone sees it as.
“I think there are lot of decent horses in here. But I was really taken by Il Etait Temps first race and that really impressed me."
3.30pm Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup (A Plus Tard)
"I thought Minella Indo had won a really strong race beating A Plus Tard in the Gold Cup last year
“The more I watch the races, I think A Plus Tard’s Betfair Chase win was special.
“I think he is the one to take out of it. He's turned eight, he could have improved, Minella Indo is nine and you don't usually get better at nine.
“I think that A Plus Tard could be the most likely winner and could give Rachael Blackmore a little bit of satisfaction for the pain she probably felt leaving there last year."
4.10pm - St James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Foxhunters Chase (Billaway)
"Billaway can make it third time lucky in this event."
4.50pm - Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase (Elimay)
"Elimay. I think the cheekpieces are the making of her. She is tiny, but very well built. I just think cheekpieces are going to be the difference."
5.30pm - Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Good Risk At Al)
"I’m not sure if State Man runs here or in the County Hurdle. I think Good Risk At All is interesting if he runs here. I wouldn’t fancy him in the Coral Cup, I think he will go well on the New Course in this event."
Ruby's other tips
Ruby’s Lucky 15 for the Cheltenham Festival: Stormy Ireland (Mares’ Hurdle), Saint Felicien (Coral Cup), Champ (Stayers’ Hurdle) and Elimay (Mares’ Chase).
Next Best: STORMY IRELAND (Mares' Hurdle).
Nap: ALLAHO (Ryanair Chase).
Each-Way: CAPODANNO (Brown Advisory Novices' Chase).
Prestbury Cup: I think it could be Ireland 18-10 UK.
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