Jockey Paul Townend has arguably the best job in National Hunt racing, being stable jockey to the massively successful Willie Mullins.
Mullins has more firepower in his yard than any other handler in Britain or Ireland and Townend has been first choice for many of the big rides since Ruby Walsh called it a day in May 2019.
He finished top of the jockey standings at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival with five winners and four seconds, capped off by the brilliant Gold Cup triumph of Galopin Des Champs.
The Grand National is something that has so far evaded him, though, riding in the Aintree spectacular on 12 occasions and yet to be first past the post.
|What||2024 Cheltenham Gold Cup|
|Where||Prestbury Park, Cheltenham|
|When||Friday, 15th March 2024|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming, ITV & Racing TV|
|Odds||Galopin Des Champs 2/1, Gerri Colombe 7/1, Shishkin 10/1, Bravemansgame 12/1|
Townend has long been associated with trainer Mullins and he has been stable jockey to the Closutton handler ever since Walsh announced his retirement.
From Lisgoold in Co Cork, Townend originally joined Mullins as an apprentice Flat jockey and has gone on to be crowned champion jockey over the jumps in Ireland on five separate occasions.
Townend has won the Gold Cup at Cheltenham three times, twice aboard Al Boum Photo in back-to-back years in 2019 and 2020, and then again in 2023, alongside the mighty Galopin Des Champs.
His maiden success ended the long wait that Mullins, the most successful Cheltenham Festival trainer of all-time, had endured to get his hands on the Blue Riband.
Having ridden five winners at the Cheltenham Festival in March, Townend has taken his total tally at that esteemed meeting to 28 and, given Mullins' strength in depth, there should be plenty more success to follow.
Given the size of the Mullins operation, Townend is associated with a number of top-class horses and given the potential of this year's Gold Cup winner Galopin Des Champs that is an obvious starting point.
The seven-year-old - 2/1 to win a second Gold Cup in 2024 - claimed an impressive seven-length victory over King George winner Bravemansgame in the Festival showpiece.
Townend has also formed an excellent partnership with Energumene, who defended his Queen Mother Champion Chase crown at the 2023 Festival, with a ten-length victory over Captain Guinness.
The Tony Bloom-owned champion is 3/1 to make it a hat-trick of Champion Chase wins come 2024.
The 32-year-old's other three Festival wins this season were also all Grade 1 prizes, as El Fabiolo impressed in the Arkle, Impaire Et Passe dazzled in the Ballymore and Lossiemouth got her revenge on stablemate Gala Marceau in the Triumph Hurdle.
As well as the duo already mentioned - Galopin Des Champs and Energumene – Townend will be looking forward to another potentially successful season with a number of other horses in 2024.
Champion Hurdle runner-up State Man is 4/1 to go one better at the Cheltenham Festival, with the strong possibility that he won’t have to face Constitution Hill again.
Facile Vega, Brandy Love, Blue Lord, Appreciate It and Sir Gerhard were unable to claim Cheltenham glory in 2023, but are likely to be back to challenge for the top prizes in 2024.
Brandy Love finished fifth in the Mares Hurdle, 11 lengths behind winner Honeysuckle, and is 14/1 to win the Mares Chase at the Festival.
Echoes in Rain is another horse to watch after a 9½ length victory in the Mares Champion Hurdle at Punchestown in April, and the seven-year-old is 8/1 to win the Mares Hurdle at Prestbury Park.
Townend will also hope to break his Grand National duck in 2024, having enjoyed his best finish to date when third on Gaillard Du Mesnil in 2023.
The three-time Grade 1 winner is likely to have another crack at the Aintree showpiece in 2024 and is 25/1 to claim victory for the Mullins yard.