Grand National Countdown – Best Of Bets

As the dust has settled on an incredible week at Cheltenham, the inquest can begin on why the British was once again bettered in their own backyard.

Mullins, who has won more races here than any other trainer at Cheltenham, scored ten, a career best, to tie the home team on his own at 18-10.

Although this year’s final score is an improvement on last years 23-5 to Ireland, plenty of ideas have been thrown around as to why the Brits can’t beat the Irish.

In an interview with BestofBets.com, record-breaking jump jockey Lizzie Kelly said:

“It’s difficult to ignore the shamrock-clad elephant in the room. Ireland delivered a ‘green wash’ at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, beating the Brits with 23 wins to five and leaving many over here debating what had gone wrong and the same happened last week; the difference was smaller at 18-10 but it’s still significant as the Irish remain very strong.”

“Their ranks include Champion Hurdler Honeysuckle, last season’s Gold Cup winner Minella Indo, Chacun Pour Soi, Energumene plus two-time Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo and this year’s Gold Cup winner A Plus Tard, just to mention a few, and it’s going to take some turning around and a serious revamp of the programme in Britain in order to be able to complete with the Irish.”

“As it stands, there are too many options to run in the UK, especially for the chasers, providing escape routes to avoid rivals and too many soft races. In contrast, less racing in Ireland means competitors have to clash more. They get battle-hardened, which can prove a big factor when the pressure is on at the Festival.”

“And it goes to show as the Irish yards are incredibly focused on three main Festivals: Cheltenham, Aintree and Punchestown and the rest is pretty much irrelevant.”

“You look at last year’s Festival and the Irish wasn’t just winning, they were basically grabbing the first four placings. And when you look through the betting and the races, it’s a bit scary how long it could take to finally get to the British. You look down the list of trainers and you’ve got Willie Mullins, de Bromhead and Gordon Elliott filling the first eight in the betting; but the issue is also that the Irish has so many more horses.”

“Willie Mullins brought over 55 and Gordon Elliott had close to 60; compare that to Paul Nicholls who had about 15. So that speaks for itself when our champion trainer isn’t even bringing up a quarter of what just one of the Irish trainers are brining so of course they’ll dominate the field.”

“And despite horses such as Bravemansgame, Jonbon, Constitution Hill and Shishkin, it simply isn’t enough to even get close to the Irish. Having said that, I believe we’re in a much better place this year, compared to 2021; but then again, we all thought Bravemansgame was going to win this year and Shishkin was one of the ‘bankers’ and neither of them came in.

“And although we’re getting closer to the Irish, British racing needs to change their focus and become more like the Irish where the focus is one a handful of meetings throughout the year. And unless we change our approach and attitude, we’ll continue to struggle to match the Irish.”

Author: Carolyn Horton