Irish Eyes Smiling at Cheltenham 2024

Irish Eyes Smiling at Cheltenham 2024

17 winners in 2020, 23 in 2021, 18 in 2022, and 18 again in 2023 – over the last four editions, the Irish have won 67.86% of all races at Britain’s biggest jumps meeting – the cheek of it! 

The bad news for British trainers is that the Irish juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down – with many predicting that Willie Mullins alone may bag 10 of the 28 contests in 2024.

With all that in mind, punters taking advantage of the best Horse Racing Betting Offers and pundits at the top betting blogs may be forgiven for looking at the Festival through green-tinted spectacles. But if the Irish are to sweep all before them, which runners are most likely to lead the charge?

There are no shortage of contenders, but here, we present Ireland’s five biggest hopes ahead of the March extravaganza.

El Fabiolo – Queen Mother Champion Chase

No prizes for guessing that all five entries on our list hail from the yard of Willie Mullins. First up, last year’s Arkle Chase winner, who looks to add the crown jewel in the 2m chasing crown to his CV.

A perfect six from six over fences, devastatingly good last time out in the Dublin Chase, and potentially still improving.

It will likely take an error on his part or an almighty performance from a rival to lower the colours of El Fabiolo in the Day 2 feature – particularly as he boasts a 2-0 head-to-head record against main market rival Jonbon.

Lossiemouth – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle

The shortest-priced Irish runner on the opening day goes in this event for the mares as Lossiemouth bids to extend her winning sequence to four.

Too good for the girls and the boys in the 2023 Triumph Hurdle, she looked as well as ever when bagging the Grade 2 Unibet Hurdle at this track last time out and is being touted as a potential future Champion Hurdle contender in some quarters.

She has the form and the class, but will she stay on her first crack at 2m4f?

Fact To File – Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase

Long viewed as a chaser in the making, this JP McManus-owner runner did remarkably well last season to finish second to the talented A Dream To Share in the big bumper events at Leopardstown and this meeting.

Not wasting time with a hurdling campaign, Fact To File has been sent straight over fences this season and performed with credit.

Looking in need of the run when beaten on seasonal return, he hacked up by 17l at Leopardstown before picking up a first Grade 1 in the Ladbrokes Novices’ Chase. He will need to step up on those efforts to land this, but the suspicion is that the best is yet to come.

Dinoblue – Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase

Only introduced to the festival in 2021, Willie Mullins already has two wins in this event – in addition to a second-place finish in last year’s edition.

Bidding to return the master of Closutton to the Winner’s Enclosure this time around is the seven-year-old Dinoblue.

Also going in the Green and Gold of JP McManus, this one was no match for El Fabiolo last time out but had previously racked up a four-race winning streak, including a Grade 1 at the Leopardstown Christmas meeting.

Dropping slightly in grade and back in against her own sex, she looks the one to beat but has come up short in two previous outings at this fixture.

Galopin Des Champs – Boodles Cheltenham Gold Cup

Not too long ago, Gallopin Des Champs’ Gold Cup crown looked under serious threat. Rewind to November 2023, and the eight-year-old had just tasted a second successive defeat at the hands of the Martin Brassil-trained Fastorslow, following an effort some way below his majestic best.

Two runs later, Galopin Des Champs is once again the red-hot favourite for the big one. Finally getting to grips with Fastorslow last time out in a comfortable Irish Gold Cup success, it was his previous 23-length annihilation of the field in the Savill’s Chase, which reminded us why he is the highest-rated chaser in training. Back at the scene of his finest hour, it will take a good horse to stop him.

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