School Report 2021: must do better…. but can British trainers improve at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022?

The William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

It is fair to say the 2021 Cheltenham Festival was a dominant week for the Irish, with UK runners disappointing across the board. Of the 28 races, just five were won by horses trained in the UK, which led to a lot of questions being asked about the quality of UK racing at the moment, and the ability of our trainers to get their best horses ready for the big day. Even now, our premier mid season staying chase has been won by a Mullins – trained horse, so our problems haven’t gone away.

The countdown to 2022 is on, and the big question hanging over the Festival surrounds how well the UK runners can compete this time around, and are they in for another drubbing?

If you look at the odds ahead of Cheltenham, then you will see a number of races where Irish horses are amongst the favourites, but even with that, it would be a stretch to say they are capable of performing at the same level as last season again. As it stands, Ireland is at 1/6 and the UK 6/1 to take the Prestbury Cup, the inter country tally to see which side of the Irish Sea fares best over the four days. While the racing betting UK odds certainly favour Ireland, the hope is that the UK can move in the right direction and get double-figure victories on the board. 

For that to happen, the UK would essentially need three winners on two of the four days of the meeting, with two winners on the other two days, but who are the main contenders?

The British best hopes for the 2022 Festival

The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle kicks off the Festival, a race that often goes to Ireland, but hopes are high in the UK this season. Henderson – trained Constitution Hill and Jonbon lead the market, after the recent Tolworth Hurdle victory of Constitution Hill, a race that he won by 12 lengths.

On the second day of the meeting, all UK eyes will be on one runner and that is Shishkin, a horse that is likely to turn up as one of the UK bankers of the week, assuming preparations go well. He won the Arkle Chase in great style last season and would love to follow that up by taking the premier two-mile chase event this season.

On Thursday, the most interesting runner on the whole card is more than likely going to be Champ. A Gold Cup hopeful last season, he was expected to go down that route again this season, but an impressive win over hurdles on seasonal debut has seen trainer Nicky Henderson open up a new option in the Stayers Hurdle.

The meeting rounds off on Friday and the headline race on that day is of course the Gold Cup. This is a race dominated by Irish runners, with the likes of Minella Indo, A Plus Tard, Galvin and Al Boum Photo all fancied to go well.

From a UK point of view, Protektorat, Chantry House and Champ, if he doesn’t run on Thursday, lead the way, but so far, all of them are outsiders in the race.

The disappointing total of five winners last season should not be repeated, but the strength of Irish racing right now means that low double figures is the best that the UK can hope for in 2022.

If you’re already salivating at the thought of the sport’s 4 day bonanza, consider also adding the Monday of that week here at Stratford. Our competitive card gives riders and trainers a pipe-opener to get in the winning mood before the tense moments of the subsequent four days.

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