Free Cheltenham Festival 2014 betting tips and insight to help you decide who will claim this year's leading jockey title.
The Leading Jockey Title at the Cheltenham Festival has been won by some real class acts in bygone years; John Francome, Jonjo O’Neil and Peter Scudamore to name but a few. The top jockey market is regularly dominated by the riders from the top yards and this year’s market is no different. With the favourite drawing much of the money out of the market is there any value elsewhere?
Understandably, RUBY WALSH (4/7 Coral) is the odds-on favourite. Both his fantastic Festival record (38 winners to date) and his powerful allegiance with Willie Mullins gives him a fantastic chance of claiming the accolade for an eighth time. When you consider the wealth of riches at his disposal, he could have the competition beaten after Day 1. Rides on the likes of Vautour, Quevega, Hurricane Fly and Champagne Fever should give him a flying start on Tuesday, whilst Annie Power, Ballycasey, Faugheen and Black Hercules only serve to enhance Walsh’s chances. The book of rides Walsh has lined up definitely substantiates his position in the market and even if a few of his runners falter he will still prove difficult to match.
Second favourite is Barry Geraghty (11/2 Stan James). Nicky Henderson inevitably has a strong team each year, but this year that team will lack the potency of both Sprinter Sacre and Simonsig. Nevertheless, Geraghty will still have some enviable rides; including last year's Gold Cup winner Bobs Worth. Other horses to note include; Grandouet, Dawalan and Oscar Whisky. While not as prolific as Ruby in recent years, Geraghty has taken the title on two occasions in the last ten years and always performs well at the Festival. He may lack the firepower that Walsh has at his disposal but, Henderson's string are trained to peak in the Spring and he will definitely have successful runners during the four-day event!
The biggest danger to Walsh could well come from AP McCoy (9/1 Stan James). In the season where the 18 time champion jockey has hit the illustrious 4000 winners it may seem a bit of an oddity that he is only third favourite to claim the title. Despite his brilliance, McCoy has not managed to be crowned top jockey at the festival since 1998. His strongest chance may be on My Tent Or Yours, but he also has goods rides on At Fishers Cross and Taquin Du Seuil. While McCoy may lack a significant ride in each of the conditions events he could well flourish in the handicaps. Amongst others, he looks set to ride Holywell, Pendra and Shuthefrontdoor. His chances will depend greatly on the handicap races and in the end that might prove too difficult as they are always highly competitive affairs.
The other powerhouse in Irish Racing, Gigginstown and their new retained rider Bryan Cooper (16/1 William Hill), should also do well at this year’s Festival. Last Instalment is the logical challenger to Bob’s Worth and Silvinicaco Conti in a Gold Cup that was looking increasingly like a two horse race until his victory in the Irish Hennessy. Trifolium is a great challenger for the Arkle and the most plausible alternative to Champagne Fever in terms of the Irish challengers. Benefficient, as a previous festival winner of the Jewson, would also be interesting for Champion Chase or Ryanair. Cooper undoubtedly has strong rides lined up but he will need a lot of the Festival favourites to falter in order to claim this title.
In terms of outsiders there are only a few that have a genuine ‘outsiders’ chance. Daryl Jacob (20/1 bet365) is certainly worthy of a check in the market. While it may of raised a few eyebrows when he turned down the mount on Big Buck’s, Jacob has certainly pulled his weight and helped to put his employer Paul Nicholls at the top of the trainer’s contest. He will undoubtedly get some great rides such as Calipto, Dodging Bullets, Wonderful Charm and Black Thunder. Jacob may have decent mounts but Sam Twiston-Davies (20/1 Betfred) is also of interest. Two plum rides on the main domestic challenger to the Champion Hurdle, The New One, as well as the returning Big Buck’s could be supplemented by a ride on Double Ross and maybe a few additional rides for Paul Nicholls. Twiston-Davies chances may hinge on the other jockey’s not mopping up on their fancied mounts but he should not be dismissed out of hand.
RUBY WALSH is the standout contender once more this year. There can only be one winner and there are no prizes for finding a place. Most jockeys would be rubbing their hands with glee at the horses he will get to ride at the Festival and in all honesty it make little sense to oppose him.
RUBY WALSH (WIN) (4/7 Coral)
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