The Cheltenham Festival is now just around the corner and the countdown to the Cotswolds showpiece is well and truly intensifying.
We are taking a look at some of the contenders to be crowned Top Jockey at the Cheltenham Festival.
Top Jockey Odds: 1/5
With the current leaning of power towards Ireland over Britain in jumps racing, it is likely that the rider at The Festival will be based on the Emerald Isle and Paul Townend, stable jockey to Cheltenham's all-time most successful trainer Willie Mullins, is the man with the most ammunition.
Townend has been top rider in two of the previous three years and was only denied in 2021 by the brilliance of Rachael Blackmore.
In both instances of victory, the five time Irish champion has returned five winners across the four day and his tally of Festival winners at this meeting now stands at 22, with the Champion Hurdle the only feature race to elude him – he rides 11/4 State Man in the day one contest on 14th March.
Mullins' string at Cheltenham is a thing to behold, seeing them step out in the early mornings is testament to that.
He also has 13/8 Energumene bidding to retain the Champion Chase on day two, 7/4 Lossiemouth going for Triumph Hurdle glory on the Friday and, of course, 11/8 Gold Cup favourite Galopin Des Champs, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Anyone that finishes ahead of Townend will probably be leading rider.
Top Jockey Odds: 7/1
Stable jockey to Nicky Henderson – second only to Mullins in the all-time list, Nico de Boinville is another rider sure to have plenty good horses to go to war with.
He has, of course, what is likely to be the shortest-priced runner of the week in 1/3 Champion Hurdle favourite Constitution Hill – unbeaten to this point in his career and largely considered bombproof by most observers.
If Constitution Hill has been viewed as he Seven Barrows 'banker' all through the winter, then recent events at Ascot gave him some competition. Shishkin's Ascot Chase win was about as good as anything the dual Festival winner has ever done and he's now 6/5 to pick off the Ryanair Chase on 16th March with his doubters having run for cover.
On the same afternoon, Luccia is a strong 7/4 chance in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle for de Boinville and his boss.
That's a strong starting base for the jockey – who was leading rider here in 2019 – and with plenty talent from Seven Barrows and an assurance of some good spares from the British training ranks when he is available, de Boinville has to be taken very seriously in the Top Jockey race.
Top Jockey Odds – 8/1
For a man that retired amid plenty fanfare in December, it's a surprise to see find Davy Russell on this list.
The Corkman returned to the saddle barely a month after calling it quits, stepping back in to deputise for the injured Jack Kennedy, and is now set for a Cheltenham Festival swansong.
Russell had a remarkable streak of riding a winner at every Festival from 2006-2018 and is as good as any of his peers around this famous amphitheatre.
Elliott's is coming with a strong team, including 11/8 Mighty Potter in the Turners Novices' Chase and 11/10 Delta Work in the Cross Country. Russell should be on the board in his Cheltenham farewell and could pick up some momentum if a win comes early.
Top Jockey Odds – 10/1
Rachael Blackmore became a Cheltenham Festival legend in 2021 when she steered home six winners and was crowed leading rider at the meeting – becoming the first female to do that.
Last year, more glory followed as she retained the Champion Hurdle on Honeysuckle and then stormed to Gold Cup glory on A Plus Tard.
This season has, understandably perhaps, not been as scintillating for Blackmore and Henry De Bromhead but they could well make a surge come the spring.
Top Jockey Odds – 20/1
Of the 'outsiders' Harry Cobden could be of interest. He is, of course, stable jockey to Britain's champion trainer Paul Nicholls and the Ditcheat supremo appears to have a quiet confidence about his team heading to Cheltenham this year.
With good reason too, as Grade 1-winning novice hurdlers Hermes Allen – 11/4 for the Ballymore – and Tahmuras – 9/1 for the Supreme – bring some of the best British form into the meeting, while King George winner Bravemansgame is a live Gold Cup contender at 9/1.
Nicholls and Cobden could be the best of the home team in the Cotswolds.