When it comes to the potential Paul Townend Cheltenham rides for the Festival later this month, it’s no wonder he is favourite for top jockey honours.
William Hill cut Townend from 11/10 into odds-on at 4/5 when realising the sheer number of mounts he has lined up trained by Willie Mullins are fancies to win at the premier jumps meeting of the season. SportsLens experts take a look at a dozen of these in the top horse racing events taking place across the four-day Festival starting on Tuesday, 15 March.
Possible Paul Townend Cheltenham rides look very strong on paper. As stable jockey to Irish master handler Mullins, who always likes to keep his best horses apart and maximise the prize money he can get from the Festival, it’s no wonder the bookies fear this potent combination. The latest Cheltenham top jockey odds have Townend as the clear one to beat, so which horses is he likely to ride? Let’s take a look:
Dysart Dynamo – Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle
Dysart Dynamo goes for the Supreme Novices Hurdle off the back of two bumper wins and as many hurdles successes all in Ireland. Each of those victories, whether there were obstacles on the way round or not, came by wide margins.
A 19-length demolition of Newbury Challow third Gringo D’Aubrelle in the Grade 2 Moscow Flyer at Punchestown last time out marked Dysart Dynamo down as a clear Festival contender. With Sir Gerhard in the Ballymore, he challenges Constitution Hill for favourite in the Cheltenham opener.
William Hill and other top betting sites now make Dysart Dynamo 5/2 for Supreme. The mixed displays over hurdles from Kilcruit mean this horse is another of the confirmed Paul Townend Cheltenham rides come the Festival.
Blue Lord – Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices Chase
Ferny Hollow was favourite in the Arkle betting until another untimely injury. Blue Lord now steps up to the plate in his absence. A perfect three from three over fences, he has powerful owners in Simon Munir and Isaac Souede.
Mullins has won the Arkle, the top 2m novice chase at Cheltenham, four times since 2015. Blue Lord has clearly made up into an even better horse in this sphere than over hurdles.
He does have a tired fall in the Supreme on his only previous visit to the Festival but any horse can be forgiven that. While Edwardstone is the ante post favourite, many punters may fancy Blue Lord at 7/2 with William Hill to win a second Grade 1 after his Irish Arkle success at Leopardstown last time out.
Appreciate It – Unibet Champion Hurdle
Last season’s wide-margin winner of the Supreme, Appreciate It tries to do something no horse has ever done before. The goal Mullins has is to win the Champion Hurdle despite 12 months off the track.
This feat would probably top all of the previous exploits from the Closutton genius. Standing between Townend and Appreciate It and glory is the mighty Honeysuckle. For much of the jumps season, the Champion Hurdle odds have had her an odds-on favourite for a successful defence of this crown.
It says a lot about the dearth of top 2m hurdlers that Appreciate It can be next in the market without racing this season at 7/2. Stranger things have happened, even if this is one of the biggest ask among Paul Townend Cheltenham rides this year.
Stormy Ireland – Close Brothers Mares Hurdle
Will it be third time lucky for Stormy Ireland in the Mares Hurdle that Mullins mounts have dominated down the years? Past Cheltenham results show she finished second in 2019 and a below par fifth the following season when Robbie Power probably didn’t give the best ride.
Aboard for that second place effort 12 months earlier was none other than Townend. Stormy Ireland, who has left and returned to the Mullins yard since then, bounced back to form in a big way last spring.
She won the old Irish Strawberry Hurdle at Fairyhouse over Easter and then the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. Her Grade 2 Relkeel Hurdle success on the New course at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day was another major market. Stormy Ireland is a 6/1 shot with Hills back against her fellow mares.
Sir Gerhard – Ballymore Novices Hurdle
Last year’s Champion Bumper winner Sir Gerhard remains unbeaten in his career to date. SportsLens reported how he usurped Tolworth winner Constitution Hill as the Supreme Novices Hurdle favourite following an early March gamble. Mullins keeps Sir Gerhard and stable companion Dysart Dynamo apart at Festival, even though they have different owners.
In other words, Sir Gerhard runs in the Ballymore Novices Hurdle instead. This almost makes two Paul Townend Cheltenham rides for the price of one at the Festival.
Sir Gerhard, who won a second career Grade 1 at the Dublin Racing Festival last time out, is clear favourite for Ballymore with Hills. The situation up until final decs showed the importance of punters backing horses with one of the Cheltenham non runner no bet bookies to cover themselves.
Energumene – Queen Mother Champion Chase
How to beat Shishkin and finally win the Champion Chase? The biggest question the Mullins teams must try and answer this season. Energumene has already had a crack at the favourite and was outstayed in the Clarence House Chase at Ascot.
That is the only real blemish on the Tony Bloom owned horse’s CV, however. When it comes to Paul Townend Cheltenham rides, he chose Energumene over Chacun Pour Soi. Perhaps that disappointing display by that one as favourite in the Queen Mother Champion Chase odds last season swung it.
Galopin Des Champs – Turners Novices Chase
Mullins confirmed that last year’s Martin Pipe winner over hurdles, Galopin Des Champs, will drop back in trip for the Turners Novices Chase rather than tackle an extended 3m in the Brown Advisory (better known as the RSA). That means a mouth-watering all-Irish clash with Bob Olinger.
Townend arguably rides the better jumper of the two. While the latest Cheltenham betting may favour Robcour’s Bob Olinger, the favourite in this race didn’t make it round last season.
Galopin Des Champs has proven he stays further than an extended 2m 3f with his two Grade 1 wins over 2m 5f and 3m as a novice hurdler. The bookies aren’t taking any chances, though, with Galopin Des Champs at 5/4 for the Turners.
Allaho – Ryanair Chase
Of all Paul Townend Cheltenham rides during the Festival, he may be most confident about Allaho. A runaway winner of the Ryanair Chase last season, he remains in excellent form.
Victories in the John Durkan at Punchestown and the old Kinloch Brae Chase at Thurles last time out were both impressive. Already favourite in the Ryanair Chase odds for some time, Allaho is now odds-on to become just the second horse in this race’s history to win it twice.
Mullins has four victories in the contest since 2016. Allaho is clearly as good as Min, Un De Sceaux and Vautour on his day, so will take all the beating in the defence of his crown.
Klassical Dream – Paddy Power Stayers Hurdle
While his position at the head of the Stayers Hurdle betting has been usurped following a damaging defeat in the Galmoy Hurdle, Klassical Dream is still a past Festival winner. This looks one of the more open events at Cheltenham on paper but most of this horse’s best form is left-handed.
Klassical Dream landed the Supreme three years ago and plans to go chasing have been shelved since. He remains unexposed as a stayer and his main market rivals don’t have flawless records either.
At the time of writing, the Stayers Hurdle odds have Klassical Dream at 9/1 joint second-favourite. Townend must hope the last run was just a blip.
Brandy Love – Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle
Injury ruled ante post favourite Allegorie De Vassy out of the Festival, so the leading Dawn Run hope is now Brandy Love. As past race results reveal, she jumped out markedly to her left and detriment in the Solerina at Fairyhouse last time out.
While that forfeits ground on a right-handed track like that, it’s no problem on an anticlockwise course. Brandy Love is another of the likely Paul Townend Cheltenham rides after partnering her on both hurdles starts to date.
Mullins usually takes a scattergun approach to the Dawn Run race, which he has farmed at the Festival. If no worse for her fall, then Grangee will be a contender too. The market sides with Brandy Love, though, with William Hill going 5/2 about her.
Vauban – JCB Triumph Hurdle
Townend tasted Triumph Hurdle glory on Burning Victory two years ago in fortuitous circumstances. He will be hoping that he doesn’t need a final flight unseat by a runaway leader when riding Vauban in this renewal.
Owed by Rich and Susannah Ricci, this smart French import has a Listed win on the Flat across the Channel. Vauban has since added the Grade 1 Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown to his CV. On paper, the Triumph looks a match between him and narrow Punchestown conqueror Pied Piper.
That one has since won an official trial over the course and distance. The rematch between them shouldn’t disappoint. Vauban is 13/8 and one of the Cheltenham tips to turn the tables on his rival come the Festival.
Concertista – Mrs Paddy Power Mares Chase
Last and by no means least among Paul Townend Cheltenham rides is Concertista. She is prominent in the Mares Chase betting but seeks to go one better than her agonising defeat in the Mares Hurdle last season.
Chinned on the line by Black Tears 12 months ago, Concertista is an unbeaten in two tries over fences. Any doubts about her stamina were dispelled by a win in a 2m 6f Grade 2 novice chase at Limerick over Christmas.
Concertista also had the class to win over 2m at Cork at that level on her bow in this sphere. Stable companion Elimay, runner-up in this last season, is a formidable opponent, while Gordon Elliott’s Mount Ida stays further and won the Kim Muir 12 months ago. Concertista could be the value at Cheltenham odds of 7/2.
Possible Paul Townend Cheltenham Rides Day by Day at 2022 Festival
- 1:30 Supreme Novices Hurdle – Dysart Dynamo
- 2:10 Arkle Challenge Trophy – Blue Lord
- 3:30 Champion Hurdle – Appreciate It
- 4:10 Mares Hurdle – Stormy Ireland
- 4:50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle – Gaelic Warrior
- 1:30 Ballymore Novices Hurdle – Sir Gerhard
- 3:30 Queen Mother Champion Chase – Energumene
- 1:30 Turners Novices Chase – Galopin Des Champs
- 2:50 Ryanair Chase – Allaho
- 3:30 Stayers Hurdle – Klassical Dream
- 4:50 Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle – Brandy Love
- 1:30 Triumph Hurdle – Vauban
- 2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle – Minella Cocooner
- 3:30 Cheltenham Gold Cup – Al Boum Photo
- 4:50 Mares Chase – Concertista
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