Top Five Jockeys To Look Out For At The 2022 Cheltenham Festival

We take a look at five jockeys who can make a big impact at the greatest show on turf next week
16:35, 11 Mar 2022

RACHAEL BLACKMORE

Biggest Potential Rides at the Festival:

HONEYSUCKLE – 15:30 (Champion Hurdle) 

TELMESOMETHINGGIRL– 16:10 (Mares’ Hurdle)

BOB OLINGER – 13:30 (Turners’ Novice Chase)

A PLUS TARD – 15:30 (Cheltenham Gold Cup)

It’s only fair to start with the woman who has completely changed horse racing in recent years. A pioneer for this brilliant game we love, she became the first female jockey to win the Grand National as well as the Champion Hurdle, an amazing achievement for a woman who is breaking down barriers at every turn. 

She returns to Cleeve Hill as Champion Jockey this year with bookmakers quaking in their books at the thought of her replicating the same sort of form that saw her win six races last year. Her ability to be able to recognise pace in a race is something that is very understated but was shown to great effect with her rides last year on Allaho and Sir Gerhard. 

She stole lengths during earlier stages of the race which all but put paid to a lot of her rivals’ chances. Naturally, this year, the expectation will be higher for the 32-year-old, but her book of potential rides means it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that she could follow up once again here. The biggest chance she’ll have will be with Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle.

Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle

The two queens of horse racing combine as she looks for a two-timer in the race she won so impressively last year. She’s been the best backed horse of the whole week and it would be a huge shock to see her be beaten. She could make it a quick-fire double on the Tuesday, as Telmesomethinggirl in the subsequent race looks to hold leading claims and already has winning form at track so don’t be surprised to see Rachael at the top of the Champion Jockey standings after day one. 

Her ride on Bob Olinger will be fascinating in the Turners’, which could set up to be a one-on-one showdown with Galopin Des Champs. If that does happen, then the tactics that will be enforced by both her and Paul Townend will be enthralling. Bob Olinger has more speed, but Galopin has superior jumping and has been far more impressive over these bigger obstacles so how Rachael will try and follow the forward racing type of Galopin will be one to watch. 

The crescendo of the whole meeting for her will finish in the Gold Cup where Rachael looks like she will be riding A Plus Tard, the current 7/2 favourite. Defeated in the race by stable companion Minella Indo last year, Rachael will have to ride the 8-year-old slightly quieter if she is going to reverse the form with Minella Indo. As with other jockeys in this list, at the current time of writing, the final declarations haven’t yet been made. What is for sure though is she’ll be picking up some good rides in the handicaps so keep an eye out on your racecard for the queen of horse racing. 

DAVY RUSSELL

Biggest Potential Rides at the Festival:

CONFLATED – 14:50 (Ryanair Chase)

TIGER ROLL – 16:10 (Cross Country Chase)

PIED PIPER – 13:30 (Triumph Hurdle)

GALVIN – 15:30 (Gold Cup)

I’ll start with an outlandish claim for Davy Russell. For me, he’s the best rider of Cheltenham that will be riding at the festival this year and following an injury setback last year ruled him out of the meeting, he’ll be back hungrier than ever.

This season, he has already shown just what a quality rider he is. His performances aboard Conflated in the Irish Gold Cup and Galvin in the Savills Chase oozed class. His riding qualities was there in plain sight, with those two horses now having huge chances of following up their successes up here at Cheltenham.

The battle of words between owner Michael O’Leary and trainer Gordon Elliott has seemingly been won by the Ryanair owner on Conflated, which opens a huge opportunity for Davy Russell to serve it up to the red-hot favourite Allaho in the Ryanair. Nothing would please O’Leary more than seeing his horse win his own sponsored race. Indeed, it will have to take a Davy Russell masterclass from the front to think that he can get Allaho on the back foot but the man judges speed like few else and looks to have a great each-way chance in the contest. 

It has also just been announced that Davy will reignite the special partnership with Tiger Roll. A duo which has already been seen to great effect when winning the Grand National at Aintree in 2018 and 2019, he will look to add another Cheltenham Festival success to his already imperious record around the Prestbury Park track. 

Davy Russell has an excellent relationship with Gordon Elliott and the Friday could be a huge finish for the Irishman. He holds three rides for main market players in the Triumph and County hurdles as Gordon Elliott looks to release some of his best juveniles on to the scene and Galvin in the Gold Cup looks to have a huge chance with stamina massively in his favour which could see Russell finish with a bang.

PAUL TOWNEND

Biggest Potential Rides at the Festival:

SIR GERHARD – 13:30 (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle)

ALLAHO – 14:50 (Ryanair Chase)

GALOPIN DES CHAMP – 14:10 (Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase)

VAUBAN – 13:30 (Triumph Hurdle)

Paul Townend is a short 4/5 favourite to win the Champion Jockey prize and given his book of potential rides, it’s very clear to see why. He has a whole host of favourites and the main rider for Willie Mullins will look to go one better than last year and take the crown back to Closutton. 

It does now look like Sir Gerhard will go to the Ballymore after a lot of flip-flapping between the Supreme and the 2m4f contest, with Dusart Dynamo going to the Supreme. The Ballymore looks a weak race on paper this season and does look a penalty kick for Townend who would hope that he barely has to get out of the saddle to get Sir Gerhard to land the big prize. 

Sir Gerhard
Sir Gerhard

Stattler looks to have the right profile to win the National Hunt Chase with the Grade 3 success at Naas being particularly impressive and shaping as if this step up in trip will suit. Then from Wednesday to Friday, Townend’s rides look scarily good. Allaho looks about as much of a good thing as possible. Paul will find it difficult to emulate the ride of the festival that Rachael gave him last year, but the opposition doesn’t look up to a whole lot and I would be surprised if he doesn’t make it 2-2 in the Ryanair this year. 

I’ve already spoken at length at just how I’m excited I am for the clash in the Turners’ between Galopin Des Champ and Bob Olinger. The race has all the hallmarks of going down in Cheltenham Festival folklore, and the tactics that will be deployed by both jockeys will be fascinating. 

He will also likely partner some of Mullins’ well-fancied handicaps hopes. Gaelic Warrior looks a particular handicap fancy in the Boodles that Townend should get the ride for. A 4-year-old who honestly could have 15-20lb in hand on his rivals, having only been given a mark of 129 by the British handicapper despite the fact his Irish mark was 10lb higher, translating form over from his three French runs. 

Vauban is another 4-year-old with a load of potential and will look to become Willie’s only second winner of the Triumph Hurdle. A race that, interestingly, Willie doesn’t hold a particularly good record in, Mullins will be hoping that Paul can get the same tune out of Vauban as he did in the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. An easy 3l winner that day, he travelled like a dream, sauntering past fellow market rival Fil Dor.

The Gordon Elliott runner will look for revenge here, but Vauban looks like he’s improving drastically so don’t be surprised to see him as part of Paul Townend’s multiple winners at Prestbury Park next week.

ROB JAMES 

Biggest Potential Rides at the Festival:

RUN WILD FRED – 17:30 (National Hunt Chase)

SIRE DU BERLAIS – 14:10 (Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle)

FRONTAL ASSAULT – 17:30 (Kim Muir)

Like Gordon Elliott, this is the year of redemption for the leading amateur rider. He and Gordon were both suspended for 12 months after footage emerged of him sitting on a dead horse. The act committed by the pair were damaging to their own reputations but also to the wider sport of horse racing. 

It will be interesting the see the general discourse from the public to the TV racing pundits as they will likely feature heavily on our screens next week with Gordon eyeing up his stable amateur jockey to take off a handy 7lb on some of his higher-weighted horses in handicap company. 

The rides on Sire Du Berlais, Frontal Assault and Run Wild Fred have already been confirmed by Elliott and all look to have leading claims. The 7lb claimer will be very useful for Sire Du Berlais who looks to add to his already superb record at the track. A two-time winner of this in 2019 and 2020, he has yet to finish outside the top four in four appearances on Cleeve Hill and will ride off 3lb lower with James’ allowance than in 2020.

Undoubtedly, a shrewd piece of jockey booking, and one in which could pay off with the 10-year-old looking tough to beat. He also holds the ride for current market favourite Run Wild Fred in the National Hunt Chase, who will look to consolidate his impressive Troytown handicap win by winning here in the former four miler. 

Run Wild Fred
Run Wild Fred

This is an amateur jockey race only and will be James’ leading fancy next week. He will be able to flex his muscles and show just how good he truly is, with the favourite looking to have everything in his favour. Frontal Assault looks tailor-made for the Kim Muir and the 7lb claim that James has will be invaluable as he will drop the 7-year-old back down to a nice riding weight. 

A host of big rides are in the offing for the leading amateur who will be one to watch at the festival. Keep an eye out for any further rides that he picks up as not sure there is currently a better claimer in Great Britain or Ireland. 

NICO DE BOINVILLE 

Biggest Potential Rides at the Festival:

CONSTITUTION HILL – 13:30 (Supreme Novices’ Hurdle)

MARIES’ ROCK – 16:10 (Mares’ Hurdle)

SHISKHIN – 15:30 (Champion Chase)

Nico De Boinville represents the best of the British hopefuls for the Champion Jockey title this year but even at the current odds of 8/1, it tells you that he’s not well-fancied to do so. He’s a brilliant rider but whose book of rides doesn’t look as healthy as I’m sure he’d want. 

The two rides of Constitution Hill and Shishkin however will be ones that he will relish. The former represents a strong hand for the Nicky Henderson team in the Cheltenham curtain raiser. The 5-year-old has been simply scintillating this season and now is vying for favouritism with Irish raider Dusart Dynamo. 

Shishkin
Shishkin

The stable debut performance over at Sandown was beyond even Nico’s wildest imagination, as he sauntered to victory beating a talented Might I by 14l. The time analysts have been purring at this time figure recorded ever since, and the subsequent performance in the Tolworth was just as impressive. 

Nico has been aboard on both clear-cut wins and clearly has a great relationship with the horse which will be needed to shine if he is going to dig out a victory here in what looks a red-hot Supreme. You run out of superlatives for the other main win contender for the week Shishkin. The performance in the Clarence House was Altior-esque and was a brilliant bit of riding by Nico De Boinville in the latter stages, as he managed to pick up Energumene in the final 100 yards. 

The showdown is set for another sequel, and you’d imagine Paul Townend will ride the Mullins’ runner with more constraint in the hope of being able to use the speed and turn the tables on Shishkin. Nico will have to be privy to what Mullins, Townend and co. throw at them in this as this will ultimately determine whether this week will be good for De Boinville or not. 

They will try and unsettle Nico in the saddle and do what they can to reverse the form, but Nico has proven time and time again that he delivers this 8-year-old at the perfect moment. He’ll be hoping that he can bring up the three-peat in the Champion Chase in what looks one of the races of the week. 

Betfred's Cheltenham Festival Markets*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change 

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