It seemed like the flat racing season came and went in a flash. With fans finally being allowed back to racecourses after an almost 18-month period behind closed doors, it was refreshing to see a sense of normality on the horizon, and the good feelings were reciprocated with the jockeys and trainers, who seemed to step their game up in the latter part of the season.
Now we look ahead to the Cheltenham Festival. While it may seem strange place so much emphasis on a meeting that still seems so far away, the ante-post bets on horse racing betting sites, it is always best to be prepared. Last year saw a variety of strong performances, with Minella Indo taking the Gold Cup thanks to good work from his young jockey Jack Kennedy.
An underrated aspect at times in National Hunt racing, the role of the jockey can prove crucial in claiming the top prizes and with that in mind we thought we would highlight a few that may have slipped under the radar that you should look out for when Cheltenham rolls back around.
It would be hard not to back two-time Gold Cup winning rider Paul Townend to go and deliver the goods once again. Al Boum Photo will be looking to grab his own personal hattrick whilst a strong start in Dublin with Willie Mullins has allowed the Irishman to build a surge of momentum which, if carried right the way through to the Gold Cup, is bound to be a recipe for success. Townend will also have opportunities to pick up accolades elsewhere with Appreciate It, Energumene and Concertista — leading horses on day one alone.
Liverpool has not produced a rich list of professional jockeys of late, despite hosting one of the most famous horse races every year. However, Joe Anderson is bucking the trend. Having started his career much later than the traditional jockey, Anderson has gone on to ride some of the best horses in the sport and accumulated over one million pounds in prize money. With so few jockeys emerging from the city in recent years, Anderson is flying the flag for Merseyside as he looks to end the year strongly after strong performances over the summer with Calarules and Hang in there.
If we are going off recent form alone, then Harry Cobden stands a very good chance of having a successful Cheltenham. In contention for the jockeys’ championship in Britain with reigning champion Brian Hughes, who is also likely to be riding at some point during Festival week, Cobden will certainly have a point to prove and garner the attention of the masses, as he is ready to prove all doubters wrong. Victory with Mr Glass under the tutelage of Paul Nicholls, who bagged an individual treble himself, stands Cobden in good stead to continue his purple patch, but he was also quick to recognise the good work of his horse.
“He was a short price and expected to do the job. He’s an easy ride” he said: “He never pulls and is just a fabulous individual. Looking at the size of him, he’ll be a better horse next year and a serious chaser one day.”