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Runners & Riders


Willie Mullins' diminutive mare is going for a hat-trick of wins in the David Nicholson Mares Hurdle. She represents our greatest hope of an Irish victory after blitzing her rivals in the same race for the past two years. The French-bred seven-year-old will go off a short-price favourite when she runs in the second-last race on Tuesday afternoon. Latest price: 1/1

Hurricane Fly

Having never run at Cheltenham, there will be doubts over whether he will handle the track, but there is no doubting his ability. The Willie Mullins-trained gelding has only tasted defeat once in his jumps career. The Champion Hurdle looks like one of the most competitive races of the week, but the five-year-old, who has amassed almost €500k in prize money, won't be overawed. Latest price: 5/1

Big Zeb

The reigning Queen Mother Champion Chase champion faces a battle royal with English horse Master Minded.

Trained in Co Wexford by Colm Murphy, Big Zeb caused an upset last year when landing the Two-Mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham. Doubts over his jumping ability were firmly put to bed last season with a perfect round.

He was beaten on his last run by Golden Silver, but expect the finishing order to be reversed with conditions suiting Big Zeb. Latest Price: 3/1

Rock Noir

An outside bet for the meeting would be the JP McManusowned Rock Noir in the Irish Independent Arkle Chase on Tuesday. The biggest national-hunt owner in Europe has been bullish about the horse's hopes in recent weeks. Tony McCoy will be on board the Jonjo O'Neilltrained gelding. Latest Price: 16/1

Ruby Walsh

The Kildare native (31) is generally accepted as being the finest national hunt jockey of his generation. As first-choice jockey to training powerhouses Willy Mullins and Paul Nicholls, Ruby will have a mouthwatering book of rides next week.

The eldest son of racing broadcaster Ted, Ruby has an impeccable Cheltenham record which includes 27 festival winners, the highest in history, and is the short-priced favourite to land the Top Jockey gong this year.

Odds on being top jockey: 11/10

Barry Geraghty

One of the most talented jump jockeys around with a knack for getting the most out of horses as they climb Cleeve Hill at Cheltenham.

A proud Meath man, Geraghty (31) entered racing aged 18 in 1997 and gained a reputation as an outstanding horseman. He will be forever remembered for his partnership with jumping legend Moscow Flyer, who landed the Arkle in 2002 and the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2003 and 2005. He has struck up a profitable association with top UK trainer Nicky Henderson and expect Geraghty to be in the fray in most of the top races.

Odds on being top jockey: 3/1

Tony McCoy

Horseracing’s man of steel will be one of the most followed jockeys in Cheltenham’s packed betting ring next week. His victory in last year’s Grand National on board Don’t Push It means that ‘AP’ has won every major prize in British horseracing. The Antrim native has ridden more than 3,000 career winners since his maiden victory at Thurles in 1992 as a 17-year-old.

As JP McManus’s retained jockey, McCoy will be riding the cream of horses from next Tuesday, including Champion Hurdle favourite Binocular. Odds on being top jockey: 12/1

Robert Thornton

Nicknamed ‘Chocolate’, Thornton comes alive at the Cheltenham festival and is definitely one to follow. His record in Cheltenham, in particular hurdle races, is enviable. Attached to the Alan King stable in England, Thornton (32) will be competitive in most races at long prices. Odds on being top jockey: 16/1

Richard johnson

Cheltenham has been a happy hunting ground for Johnson, who has captured all the festival’s blue-riband events. Hereford-born Johnson (33) comes from strong racing stock, with both his father and grandfather involved in national hunt racehorses.

He is associated with the Phillip Hobbs yard. His greatest festival success came in 2000 when Looks Like Trouble landed the Gold Cup.

Odds on being top jockey: 20/1