Many horses dominate the headlines at the Cheltenham Festival, but there is one group that is seemingly overlooked which are the jockeys. Jockeys ensure that the favourite horses strive on the track to repay the market confidence, while at the same time help the underdogs to shake off their ‘unfavourable’ tags. As we draw nearer to the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, let's have a look at those who are likely to make a name for themselves this year.
We start with the name that all horseracing fans and punters ought to know - Ruby Walsh. Walsh is a veteran when it comes to horseracing, having made his first entrance in 2004 at the Cheltenham Festival. However, his career as a jockey started way long before 2004 in the 1998/99 season in the Irish National Hunt. Walsh is one of the most decorated jockeys of his generation with a trophy cabinet that includes over 2000 wins, 56 of which came from the Cheltenham Festival alone. At 38, Walsh is surely at the twilight of his career but he still wants more before he finally decides to call it quits. He returns to the Cheltenham Festival yet again as the Willie Mullins stable jockey with an aim of putting his injury struggles of 2017 away.
If you are one of those punters who like betting on horses that are unknown or unexposed, you need to become an ardent follower of Noel Fehilly. Fehilly has made a name for himself by taking the unexposed horses and turning them into winners. Those punters, who have followed Fehilly’s journey thus far, will surely show one or two big checks that came their way as a result of his prowess with unexposed horses. Fehilly returns to the Cheltenham Festival after his previous two wins in the King George VI Chase and the Champion Hurdle. For underdog fans, Fehilly is the man to follow for guaranteed results.
Sam Twiston Davies
Sam Twiston Davies at 25, is at that stage where you expect him to go on and achieve some of the best moments of his life. Sam has a rich history in horseracing as the main rider for Paul Nicholls, a respected name within the horseracing community. He also happens to be the son of trainer, Nigel Twiston-Davies. He definitely has the support base he needs to become a world-beater, what he needs now is the performances to go with it. In his career to date, Sam has 3341 rides in total (Hurdles, Chase, and NHF) winning just 309. It’s not a particularly impressive winning percentage at 18%, and he acknowledges improving this in the 2018 Cheltenham Festival.
Davy Russell, another veteran on this list, had his first foray as a jockey was way back in 2002 on Inn Antique in a Novice Hurdle. Russell enters the Cheltenham Festival with fond memories of his impressive victories, with his first Cheltenham being an appearance in 2003 when he finished second in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. That year, he also won the Peter Marsh Chase at Truckers Tavern. He did not wait long for his first Cheltenham glory as he won the Sporting Index Cross Country Chase in 2006. The wins at the Festival kept coming as he managed to reign champion with three Coral Cups and just before that, he won the Betfred Gold Cup in 2014. Despite his major Cheltenham wins, Russell knows that he still lags behind fellow Irish compatriot, Ruby Walsh. Therefore he looks to add another win or two to his name this year.