PAT HEALY: This week Pat looks ahead to the storylines that will make Cheltenham 2022, and he picks out a big priced outsider for the Pertemps Final.
Cheltenham’s just the start
It’s finally here. We all know what I’m talking about and it’s the Cheltenham Festival, but it feels even better to be going back after missing out last year. The racing aside for a moment, I’m really looking forward to seeing old friends and colleagues that I haven’t seen for two years now. On the racing front though, I’m looking forward to seeing plenty of Irish winners, but most importantly of all I just hope that everybody and their horses come back safe and sound and that they can fight another day.I’ve got a couple of ante-post picks in place but come Tuesday I’ll definitely be having a couple of multiples involving the Irish raiders and hoping for the dominance that we saw last year; can we top that? In truth probably not, but I do think we’ll have plenty of success, Willie [Mullins] is odds-on to be champion trainer and Gordon [Elliott] is not far behind him, so between them we’re probably looking at 10 winners at least. In the Pertemps Final on Thursday, keep an eye on Sassy Yet Classy at a big price. She is owned by fellow Kerrymen Alan Collins and Pat Daly, and the boys are heading across with plenty of hope and excitement. If this mare does the business, then there will be bonfires in Tralee and Blennerville, and not to mention Skelper Quane’s pub which will be the scene for an almighty party!
It would be fantastic to see Honeysuckle win a second Champion Hurdle and claim her 15th consecutive win. You could guarantee that it would make front page news if she manages it which would be amazing for the sport, and if you’re looking at things from that perspective then her and Rachael [Blackmore] are our best chance of making headlines. Of course, she’ll be running with her seven-pound weight allowance, which is truly a debate for another day, but I’m sure if she goes on to win next week then that topic will be bought to the fore once again. Fingers crossed we will have another winner of the Gold Cup on Friday, where Minella Indo will be there defending his crown trying to emulate Al Boum Photo, who himself will be vying for his third Gold Cup success. One of the best things about Cheltenham for me is that it signifies the start of the best race meets around the world, after March we’ll be finding ourselves at Aintree and Punchestown before we know it and then on to the Classics in May. June brings the Derby and Royal Ascot, July will roll around with Newmarket, August we’re at York and then September is Irish Champions weekend before we go to Ascot in October. It’s every month from here on to the Breeders Cup in November and I just can’t wait for it all.
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