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Cheltenham Festival: Prestbury Cup

British trainers will be trying to wrestle back the Prestbury Cup from Ireland for the first time since 2015 at the 2024 Cheltenham Festival.

With 28 races across four days from Tuesday 12th March until Friday 15th March, each nation needs to get to 15 winners to win the Prestbury Cup. 

Every race from the Cheltenham Festival can be viewed via the bet365 Sports Live Streaming Service and here's our look at the race for the Prestbury Cup.

Horse Racing

Rough times for the home team

The last win for Britain in the Prestbury came in 2015, when their winners included Cole Harden in the Stayers' Hurdle (still known then as the World Hurdle), The Package in the Kim Muir and novice Coneygree in a feel-good Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The score that year was 14-13, a narrow victory for Britain in the days when the Cheltenham Festival still had only 27 races. 

The aggregate score in the eight years since has been 131-82 in favour of Irish-trained horses. In truth, it has rarely been close. A 14-all draw in 2019 meant that Ireland, 17-11 victors the year before, kept the trophy. Otherwise it has been true one-way traffic. The low point from a British perspective came in 2021, when the score was a startling 23-5.

In the two years since, the ship has steadied somewhat. Both in 2022 and 2023, the Prestbury Cup went to Ireland by a score of 18-10. The slight rebalancing is down in part to Ireland's challenge becoming increasingly concentrated among the all-conquering Willie Mullins yard.

In previous years, there might have been competition for top trainer between Mullins, Gordon Elliott or even Henry De Bromhead. This year, Mullins is 1/12, with Elliott 6/1 second-favourite and De Bromhead 100/1.

Indeed, the more competitive betting heats these days could be Mullins versus the rest. Mullins is 11/8 to train more winners than the rest of Ireland's trainers combined, and 4/5 versus the whole of Britain. To reiterate, British yards have sent out 10 winners in each of the last two years. That tells the story of Mullins' dominance.

Having ever more of the Irish eggs in one basket does make the Prestbury Cup question a little more fraught. A bad week for Mullins is a bad week for Ireland. Can the British challenge resist this year?

The return of 'Ruby Tuesday'?

In the days prior to when Mullins was a shoo-in for the top trainer title at Cheltenham before we had even heard 'The Roar', he was still known for his dominance in the early races. 

The Supreme Novices' Hurdle, Champion Hurdle and Mares' Hurdle in particular have long been happy hunting grounds for the yard and the first day was often dubbed 'Ruby Tuesday' after Mullins' then stable jockey, Ruby Walsh. Even in 2015, the last British success in the Prestbury Cup, Mullins won four out of the first five races.

This year, Mullins has an overwhelming favourite for the Supreme in Ballyburn. He is 11/10 for the race with bet365. The Arkle looks more open, but Mullins is expected to be double or triple-handed. Admittedly, spreading his chips in this way often means he has no clear standout.

The Champion Hurdle picture continues to swing on Constitution Hill's wellbeing. If he does not make it, then another Mullins success with State Man, who is currently 8/15, looks likely. Finally, there is the Mullins banker of the whole week in the Mares' Hurdle. Come what may in the Champion Hurdle, Lossiemouth will reportedly stick to the mares' route and she is 4/6. The shortest-priced British runner for that race is Love Envoi, at 16/1.

Mullins also has a strong contender in the National Hunt Chase, with 5/2 chance Embassy Gardens. If you fancy Mullins in one of the more closely-fought markets mentioned above, Tuesday looks a make-or-break day. 

On the other side, British runners have won the Ultima Handicap Chase every year since 2007. Losing that one could be the equivalent of the ravens leaving the Tower Of London.

More Mullins magic on Wednesday

The second day of the Cheltenham Festival is once again expected to be dominated by Mullins, just not to quite the same extent as Tuesday. His main hope on the day is El Fabiolo, the dominant Champion Chase favourite at 1/2

Fact To File, 1/1 for the Brown Advisory, is his next best and he is expected to be mob-handed in the Champion Bumper, a race he has already won 12 times.

On Wednesday the Brits at least have some good prospects, either as favourite or just behind the Mullins challengers. Stay Away Fay is 7/2 for the Brown Advisory and expected to be Fact To File's main threat. The same goes for Jonbon in the Champion Chase. The Coral Cup and Grand Annual, the day's two big handicaps, are a bit more of a toss-up than the Grade 1s and contain plenty of interesting British-trained runners.

Brits fight back on Thursday?

Thursday brings some of the meeting's biggest handicaps, including two of the four handicap chases which have generally been kinder to the home team in recent years. The Plate and the Kim Muir will take place after the day's championship races.

Paul Nicholls and Dan Skelton between them have a leading chance in the opening Turners Novices' Chase. Ginny's Destiny is 3/1, the Skelton-trained Grey Dawning is 7/2

Nicholls also has the main threat to the Irish in the Ryanair. Stage Star, who won last year's Turners, is a 9/2 shot behind Banbridge and on the same price as defending champion Envoi Allen.

The Stayers' Hurdle might be an open race, but for the purposes of the Prestbury Cup it looks fairly straightforward. Long Walk winner Crambo, at 11/2, is one of very few legitimate British-trained contenders.

Friday brings the British banker

With the uncertainty over Constitution Hill, Triumph Hurdle favourite Sir Gino is the shortest-priced British runner on the week. He is 8/11 and if he fails to get it done, then the Brits are in serious trouble.

Admittedly, the County Hurdle looks evenly-matched at this stage and there is no dominant side in the Albert Bartlett or Foxhunters' Chase. 

The Cheltenham Gold Cup looks set to go Ireland's way, with Galopin Des Champs 5/4 and the Martin Brassil-trained Fastorslow second-favourite at 6/1. Although a British cohort that contains Shishkin, L'Homme Presse and last year's runner-up Bravemansgame can hardly be said to be weak.

The week is likely to finish with a couple of Irish-trained winners. Their market position in the Mares' Chase and Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle is dominant. It is expected that these wins will put the icing on the cake for another Irish win in the 2024 Prestbury Cup.

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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