20 Feb 2019 - NEWSCHELTENHAM FESTIVAL: IN-PLAY DRAMA
Best Cheltenham Festival Jockeys: New Walsh on the block?
Posted in: Cheltenham Festival Tips
Davy Russell was awarded his first Holland Leading Jockey Award at the Cheltenham Festival 12 months ago – tipped up here last February at 10/1 – following four wins during the week, which included a spectacular 377/1 treble on the Thursday. His first winner came aboard Presenting Percy, who recorded his second Cheltenham Festival success in the RSA Novices’ Chase, and is the current ante-post favourite for the Gold Cup next month. Russell was only presented the top jockey award on countback, though, with his younger compatriot Jack Kennedy also riding four winners at the meeting.
The most successful jockey at the Cheltenham Festival is Ruby Walsh, who has ridden 58 winners there during his career and, although he has ridden 20 winners in the last five years, operating at a 26% strike rate, you would have actually made a loss of more than £13 to a £1 level stake if backing all of his runners blind. However, given that Walsh has been crowned leading jockey 11 times since 2004, it is no surprise to see that bookmakers have installed him as the favourite to win the title for the twelfth time. And it’s worth remembering that his challenge last year was cruelly cut short after sustaining an injury on the second day of the meeting.
So who is top of our list this year?
As the image below illustrates, there are plenty of jockeys who have proved profitable at the Cheltenham Festival in the last five years.
Davy Russell is very much the standout, though, and he looks a solid proposition to retain his crown this year, given that he will likely be well supported by Gordon Elliott once again, as well as picking up other rides from different Irish/English trainers. With that in mind, odds of around 5/1 do make some appeal, for all he was available at double that price this time last year.
Jack Kennedy’s stats are particularly impressive given that he is very much in the infancy of his career. He has plenty of exciting rides to look forward to this year also, including Apple’s Jade, who will reportedly head to the Champion Hurdle now. First jockey to powerful owners Gigginstown House Stud, his other notable rides could include Battleoverdoyen, who is currently the second favourite for the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, so he is another who represents some value at around the 6/1 mark.
Another retained jockey to a powerful owner is Barry Geraghty, who rides in the famous green/gold hoops of J. P. McManus, and is another who should also have plenty of ammunition this year. Geraghty is the second-most successful jockey at the Festival, with a total of 36 wins, five which have come in the Champion Chase, making him the most successful jockey in that race. However, his stats in the last five years aren’t so inspiring, as he’s recorded eight wins at an 11% strike-rate. Buveur d’Air and Defi du Seuil look two of his main hopes heading into this year’s Festival, but he’s only available at odds of 11/4, and there are others who offer more value.
Though he only has one Festival win to his name, Mark Walsh could be a lively outsider. He's not had a large number of rides at the Festival in the last five years, but he could be much busier this time around, with his close association with McManus being a big factor. He has already ridden 55 winners this season – well on track to record his best campaign yet – and being the regular partner of Arkle favourite Le Richebourg and Triumph favourite Sir Erec gives him two live chances of recording more winners (assuming he keeps the rides once they come over to race in England). Walsh rides the cross-country course very well and will likely pick up rides in some of the big handicaps, too, so he looks overpriced at 25/1 to be leading jockey.
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