by Dave Metcalf
Dave has over 30 years’ experience in the media industry having worked for regional and national newspapers. He is a huge horse racing and football fan and has done interviews on various radio and TV stations, including talkSPORT and Sky Sports, whilst working as a PR front man for a betting firm. David has also written for At The Races, Coral News, the Daily Mirror and Racing Plus newspaper. He produced a Cheltenham Festival guide with former eight-times champion national hunt jockey Peter Scudamore, MBE, after helping him to set up a syndicate for his trainer son Michael.
Cheltenham 2019 Top Riders
According to the bookmakers, the 2019 Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey award is, for once, a wide-open affair. In recent times it the total dominance of Ruby Walsh has made it an unattractive betting proposition for punters as he has traditionally been a short-priced favourite.
He does head the market once again this time around with a majority of firms, but only just. The legendary Irish rider is a top priced 3/1 with William Hill and is as short as 9/4 elsewhere. His boss Willie Mullins doesn’t appear to have as strong as team as usual for the four-day spectacular which gets underway on Tuesday, March 12th.
It makes Barry Geraghty look cracking value at 7/2 with BetVictor to be crowned top jockey, so read on to find out more as we put his and other leading riders mounts under the spotlight.
Ruby Walsh – 3/1 William Hill
With a total of 58 winners, 39-year-old Walsh has been leading jockey at the Cheltenham Festival a remarkable 11 times in the last 15 years.He is the most successful rider in the Stayers’ Hurdle, having won it five times, and 2015 Champion Hurdle winner Faugheen will be his partner the race this year. That one is currently second favourite behind the progressive Paisley Park.
Other leading rides include Benie Des Dieux, whom he rates his best of the week, in the Mares Hurdle, Footpad and Min in either the Ryanair or Champion Chase, and the unbeaten Laurina in the Champion Hurdle. Walsh also has some interesting Mullins condenders to choose from in the handicaps.
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Jack Kennedy – 6/1 Ladbrokes
Jack Kennedy just lost out to Russell in last year’s battle to be top jockey. His successes last year included Grade 1 victories on Shattered Love and Samcro. Although not officially the retained jockey for powerful Irish owners Gigginstown House Stud he does tend to get first pick on their runners.
He arguably has a stronger book of rides heading into the meeting than he did 12 months ago. They include Champion Hurdle second favourite Apples Jade, and Commander Of Fleet and Delta Work who head the betting for their chosen assignments – the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle and RSA Chase.
It would therefore, be no surprise to see this young talent emerge as the biggest threat to Geraghty in the battle to be crowned leading rider.
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Nico de Boinville – 12/1 William Hill
Since giving Coneygree a superb front running ride to land the Gold Cup in 2016, Nico De Boinville has enjoyed plenty of big races success at the meeting. They include Queen Mother Champion Chase successes on mighty duo Sprinter Sacre (2016) and Altior (2018). The latter is odds-on to retain his crown and granted a clear round looks unbeatable.
He has the unenviable choice of choosing between the highly-talented pair of Angels Breath and Mister Fisher in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, partners Grade 1 hurdle winner Santini in the RSA and lively outsiders Might Bite and Verdana Blue in the Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle respectively.
The 29-year-old jockey should once again find himself in the winners’ enclosure, but it will be a surprise if he emerges as top jockey.
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Davy Russell – 11/2 Betway
Russell is ice cool and rides Cheltenham as good as anyone. He was crowned the leading jockey at last year’s meeting and is set to partner ante post favourite Presenting Percy in the Gold Cup on Friday. He rode the Pat Kelly trained eight-year-old to an emphatic seven-length success RSA last season and has a strong book of rides – including some for his former bosses Gigginstown House Stud for whom he enjoyed many Festival highs in the past. Russell is as good a judged of pace as there is and always has his horses in the right place at the right time.
He also rides a lot for trainer Gordon Elliott who once again sends over a huge team packed with talent.
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Barry Geraghty – 7/2 BetVictor
Geraghty has been leading Cheltenham Festival jockey twice and is retained by leading Irish owner JP McManus who has a massive strong team to go to war with in the 28 races. They include Buveur D’Air who is favorite to land a hat-ick of victories in the Champion Hurdle on the opening day. Others with big shouts for Geraghty include Fakir D’oudairies (Supreme Novices Hurdle), Champ (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle) and Sir Erec (Triumph Hurdle).
He also has the choice of Birchdale or Dickie Diver in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and partners favourite Epatanate in the Dawn Rin Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. Defi Du Seuil is also among Cheltenham runners on Tuesday – another with rock solid claims and at the head of the betting for the Arkle Trophy Chase and JLT Novices’ Chase and McManus also likes to plunder the big handicaps and has multiple entries in each which Geraghty will have the choice of who to partner. So, taking everything into account, he should arguably be favourite for the Top Jockey title.
Therefore, at the 7/2 offer with BetVictor, looks well worth a wager.