The 2018 Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us and, by all accounts, it is predicted to smash all known betting turnover records. Figures produced by Coral bookmakers at the start of the year show 20 of their top 40 betting races in 2017 were Cheltenham Festival races.
Remarkably all seven races that take place on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival were amongst the Top-25 in terms of betting turnover at Coral in 2017. Naturally that included the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup which came second only to the Grand National and sits above the Epsom Derby and Scottish Grand National.
A BBC Business News article ahead of last season’s Cheltenham Festival outlined what this phenomenal feast brings to the local economy and, in itself, it is enough money to clear the national debt of a small African nation.
The piece states over 30% of attendees will be visitors from Ireland. Such is the Irish appetite for all things gambling, prior to the Euro coming into being, the exchange rate between the Irish Punt and the British Pound would shift noticeably in the week heading up to the Festival as the visiting contingent would desert their own currency and acquire all the Sterling they could.
Irish punters, desperately seeking any betting tips, odds and offers for Cheltenham 2018, are likely to bet more per-head on the Festival than the domestic racegoer. Not only is this viewed as an annual pilgrimage to the visitors, the Euro is strong against the Pound and the Irish economy is also the fastest growing in Europe once again. In short, the Irish have more money to gamble and they enjoy doing it more too.
On the Track and in the Ring
The surge in ‘Irish Money’ is borne out on the racecourse as well as in the betting ring. The current powerhouses of Jumps racing are, for the most part, Irish-based.
Former Barclays Bank executive Rich Ricci – owner of Annie Power, Faugheen, Douvan, Vautour, Vroum Vroum Mag and many other great Cheltenham Festival winners – has his string in training exclusively with Co. Carlow based Willie Mullins.
Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has his horses, which race under a ‘Gigginstown House Stud’ banner, spread all over Ireland with the exception of Willie Mullins and with Gordon Elliott seemingly his most popular choice of trainer.
Stock broker Barry O’Connell has put his 50 horses in the care of Alan Fleming and even the UK based Graham Wylie, who co-founded Sage Software, has deserted his home country to put his horses in training with Willie Mullins.
The ever popular and generous JP McManus does have his enormous string spread across the two countries albeit, in recent times, it would appear the bulk of his Cheltenham Festival winners are prepared in Ireland.
Would you believe that ‘JP’ won the Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase six times since the unique race was first run at the Cheltenham Festival in 2005. All were Irish-trained runners.
Scores on the Irish Doors
Combined these powerful stable and owner allegiances gave Ireland, for the first time, more winners than the home nation in the 2017 Cheltenham Festival. It was not a marginal deal either. Irish trained horses landed what is now called the Prestbury Cup by a ratio of over two to one, 19 winners to 9.
Considering Ireland enjoyed just three winners in 2000 and four in 2004 (admittedly the Festival was a three day affair then), followed by a lowly five in 2007, this turn of events is quite remarkable.
Of course the big question is what will 2018 bring the Irish? At the time of writing the Gordon Elliott trained Samcro and Apples Jade are both trading at odds on for their respective assignments, while the Willie Mullins’ traines Laurina is certain to go off favourite for the Mares Hurdle and Jessica Harrington’s Supasudae is a warm order in the Stayers Hurdle betting market.