Can the Irish Runners Dominate Cheltenham Festival again?

In 2021, 23 Irish-trained horses won races at the Cheltenham Festival, the highest number since records began. There were 28 races in total making an 82.1% strike rate for the Irish runners. That’s an incredible statistic and 2022 looks set to be another big year for Ireland.

Irish out to Dominate Again

In the early Cheltenham races betting for 2022, there were 21 Irish runners listed as favourites across the four days and another two rated as joint-favourites. Only five races had non-Irish runners at the top of the betting list. Those numbers could change before the famous Cheltenham roar bellows out on March 15.

The Prestbury Cup

The rivalry between British-trained and Irish-trained horses is about more than just bragging rights – there is an actual trophy at stake. The Prestbury Cup is awarded to jockeys and trainers from the winning region at the end of the festival. You can even wager on who will win the cup. The Prestbury Cup odds for 2022 are heavily favoured towards the Irish, with winners from the Emerald Isle expected to dominate at odds 1/20 currently available.

The cup was first introduced in 2014 and was named after the village where Cheltenham Racecourse is located. Great Britain won the first two trophies in 2014 and 2015 but have not won it since. However, they did tie with Ireland in 2019. The 2021 result was the most one-sided to date, smashing the record of 19 Irish wins in 2017. All the statistics point to another British humiliation this year.

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Recent phenomenon

The Irish domination is a relatively new phenomenon. Back in 1989, the meeting did not have a single Irish winner. And between 1975 and 2011, the number of Irish winners only reached double figures once. Since 2011, however, Ireland has hit double figures in all but one of the festivals and have had 15 or more winners on five occasions.

This year’s Challengers

The 2022 Irish challenge will start on Day One with the Henry de Bromhead-trained Honeysuckle favourite to land the Champion Hurdle ahead of last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner Appreciate It, trained by Willie Mullins. Galopin Des Champs heads off as the leading contender for the Festival Novices’ Chase. Willie Mullins’ Facile Vega is expected to battle it out with Gordon Elliott’s American Mike for the Champions Bumper.

Irish Favourites to Land Showpiece Race

In the showpiece Cheltenham Gold Cup race, the top three contenders are all from Ireland. Favourite, A Plus Tard, trained by Henry de Bromhead, will be challenged by Gordon Elliot’s Galvin and last year’s winner Minella Indo, also trained by de Bromhead. French runner Protektorat looks the most likely to spoil the party.

Irish Top the Breeding List

As well as training the most winners, the Irish also lead the way when it comes to breeding Cheltenham champions. They have been the leading breeders since 1994, although they shared the honors with France in 2019. The French have been the Irish’s closest challengers since 2000 finishing as second top breeders on 15 occasions.

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The Irish have found a formula to train and breed winners at Prestbury Park. And that looks set to continue in 2022. This factor will be taken into consideration by any racing fans planning on wagering on this year’s races. Great Britain have their work cut out if they are going to reclaim the Prestbury Cup from their great rivals from across the water anytime soon.

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