With the Cheltenham Festival just days away, the excitement is building and the anticipation grows stronger each day we get closer to March 13th. As with any sports, there are ‘big game players’ and horse racing is no different, with plenty of jockeys thriving when the pressure is on. Below we’ve listed the jockeys who excel at the Cheltenham Festival, but we mustn’t also forget others jockeys who have the potential to have a big week come Tuesday. Struggling to make your mind up on who to back? You can view all our antepost previews and tips on our Cheltenham Festival tips section now!
Ruby Walsh is the obvious one to kick off the list and he holds the record for the most Cheltenham Festival victories. With fifty-six winners at the meeting, it cannot be understated how phenomenal Ruby has been at the meeting. With the ammunition from Willie Mullins, he is once against stood in brilliant stead for this year’s Festival and is best priced 4/5 to be top jockey once again.
Although it’s perhaps been an indifferent season, Barry Geraghty has always found his best stride at the Cheltenham Festival, as proven by thirty-four victories he has to his name. The Triumph has been his domain in recent years, with five renewals since the turn of the century going his way. As the retained rider to JP McManus, he has plenty of brilliant chances once more and will be hunting to gain the top jockey’s crown.
The Champion Jockey Richard Johnson has won twenty-two Festival races including the big one when partnering Looks Like Trouble to win the Gold Cup in 2000. He rode two winners in 2017 with the Fred Winter and the Triumph Hurdle going his way. He’ll be hoping that Native River can propel him to another big race success and he’s currently second favourite to land the feature of the week.
Best Chance: Native River (Cheltenham Gold Cup)
We couldn’t talk about top Cheltenham jockeys and not mention Davy Russell, who has had at least one winner at every Festival since 2006, the year his first winner at the meeting came. The Friday in 2014 was his day in the Festival sun, winning the Triumph Hurdle and the Grand Annual, with the Gold Cup sandwiched in between. Few will have forgotten that ride, as it showed just how determined and hungry Russell is, as Lord Windermere had no right to win that day. It would be a massive surprise were he not to pop up at least once during the week.
Best Chance: Presenting Percy (RSA Chase)
It’s very hard to narrow this list down but there are two more jockeys who seem to be very much underestimated at the Festival, the first of which being Noel Fehily. He landed two of the Championship races at last year’s Festival and will once again have a strong book of rides at the meeting. A brilliant judge of pace and a jockey who gets the best out of his horses, he rarely gets the recognition he deserves which is a big shame. Tom Scudamore is another who tends to be left out of the picture when talking about the Festival, which is surprising given he’s popped up on numerous occasions over the years. He won the Stayer’s Hurdle on Thistlecrack in 2016 but where he tends to excel is in the handicaps, steering home Un Temps Pour Tout to win the Ultima twelve months ago.
Saturdays on ITV this season have been dominated by Bryony Frost, who has risen to the big occasions this campaign. She has really come alive since winning the Foxhunter’s Chase at last season’s Festival, propelling Pacha Du Polder home that day with a brilliantly judged ride. She’s improved massively in the past twelve months and has some very good ammunition from Paul Nicholls, so she has a very good chance of making it onto the scoresheet once again.
Best Chance: Black Corton (RSA Chase)
Another young jockey who has made waves this season is James Bowen, who has been touted by many as a future champion jockey. With the backing of Nicky Henderson he’s landed the Lanzarote Handicap this season alongside the Welsh Grand National. He is likely to get plenty of rides in the handicaps for Henderson and is extremely good value for his three pound claim, so it would be no surprise were he to grab a winner or two.