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Cheltenham - Racing: Top trainer at The Festival

The four-day Cheltenham Festival gets under way on Tuesday 15th March and we're taking a look at some of the contenders to be top trainer at the meeting.

Being leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival is a real feather in the cap for any handler, and a good week in the Cotswolds can often cure any ills that have gone before in the season.

It's dubbed the 'greatest show on turf' and, simply put, winners here mean that little bit more to all concerned.

All the Cheltenham action is available on our Sports Live Streaming platform platform and you can get some pre-Festival tips from our Upping The Ante team via their Cheltenham Festival preview show, featuring Gavin Lynch, David Jennings, bet365's own Pat Cooney and very special guest Gary O'Brien - the 'voice of Irish racing'.

Can anyone topple the dominance of a certain Irishman this time around? Here's a look at some of the contenders and where they may be hopeful of striking at The Festival.

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Most Festival wins as a Trainer

Willie Mullins78
Nicky Henderson70
Paul Nicholls46
Fulke Walwyn40
Martin Pipe34
Gordon Elliott32

Willie Mullins

There is no other logical starting point than the 2/5 favourite.

Willie Mullins is the all-time leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival, taking his breathtaking tally to 78 after Galopin Des Champs closed out 2021 as his sixth winner of the meeting and saw him end as leading trainer for the seventh time in nine years and his eighth overall.

Anybody that finishes ahead of the name W P Mullins in the standings next week more than likely tops the chart - he's that good.

Strength in depth is Mullins' key, especially when it comes to genuine bona-fide graded performers.

He's got the likes of Sir Gerhard and Dysart Dynamo - likely aiming to divide and conquer in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and Ballymore in some form, with both unbeaten over timber.

Last year's Supreme winner Appreciate It is 4/1 to break Honeysuckle's perfect record in the Champion Hurdle, while Mullins is two-handed with 7/2 Energumene and 5/1 Chacun Pour Soi in the Queen Mother Champion Chase - the only feature race at The Festival the Closutton chief has not yet won.

Allaho is 4/6 to defend his crown in the Ryanair Chase, while impressive bumper performer Facile Vega is 11/10 to give the trainer a dozen wins in the Champion Bumper on Wednesday evening.

Looking to Friday - a day when Mullins has sparkled in recent years - he's got 2/1 Vauban in the Triumph Hurdle, 9/1 The Nice Guy in the Albert Bartlett, 5/2 Billaway in the Hunters' Chase and 2/1 Elimay in the Mares' Chase - all of that and two-time champion Al Boum Photo at 9/1 bidding to regain the Cheltenham Gold Cup as well.

It's not called the 'Mullins Machine' for nothing! He is the man to beat.

Gordon Elliott

Those seven Mullins successes in nine years would likely be a straight line of nine was it not for his Irish contemporary Gordon Elliott, who edged him out in both 2017 and 2018, and is 9/4 to be crowned top trainer at the 2022 Festival.

The Cullentra man was an absentee last March for well-documented reasons, but Elliott is now back doing what he does best, sending out winners and is set to bring his biggest ever team to the Cotswolds this year, with more than 50 runners across four days.

At this stage, if Elliott was offered a single winner at the meeting this year, he'd probably take 13/8 Tiger Roll in the Cross Country on Wednesday.

The great horse bids for a record-equalling sixth Festival win on what's set to be his final appearance. He's a veteran now, but the noises from the camp are very positive.

It is, though, unlikely that Elliott's ambitions could be stopped at just one winner as he seeks to improve on his career tally of 32 and he's got a pair of outstanding Triumph Hurdle candidates in 5/2 Pied Piper and 6/1 Fil D'or for Friday.

Meanwhile, Galvin was a winner at the meeting last March and, after defeating A Plus Tard at Christmas, challenges for Gold Cup favouritism at 3/1, with Elliott seeking to win the Blue Riband for the second time in his career.

For all his success, Don Cossack's 2016 Gold Cup score remains Elliott's only win in a Cheltenham Festival feature race. At 8/1 the fast-improving Teahupoo in the Champion Hurdle on Tuesday might be his best hope of crossing another off the list.

American Mike is unbeaten in bumpers this season and connections are very hopeful the 5/2 chance will stay that way on Wednesday, while last month's Dublin Racing Festival scorers Conflated (Ryanair Chase - 11/2) and Party Central (Mares' Novices' Hurdle - 1/1) come here in form.

Look out for a host of Elliott-trained contenders across the Festival handicaps, while his week might get off to a flyer if the mare Riviere D'etel carries some fortune in the Arkle at 4/1 - she was desperately unlucky last time at Leopardstown.

Henry De Bromhead

There's a green-tinted theme running here - Ireland are 1/14 to win the Prestbury Cup again after a 23-5 mauling for Britain last March. The raiding party are once more likely to dominate, though perhaps not to the extent of 12 months ago.

Henry De Bromhead was a key player last time, the Co. Waterford handler taking out the Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup amongst his tally of six winners - though Mullins got him for top trainer honours on a countback of placed runners.

Honeysuckle is 8/13 to win another Champion Hurdle on Tuesday, while the De Bromhead-trained Gold Cup one-two Minella Indo (9/2 - this time) and A Plus Tard (3/1) are back for more on Friday. Form this season points to the 2021 runner-up, but Minella Indo typically reserves his best for Cheltenham in March.

Bob Olinger remains unbeaten over fences this season and is 5/6 to bag his second Festival success in the Turners Novices' Chase on Thursday.

Reigning champ Put The Kettle On is 33/1 to take out a red-hot Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, while she may be joined there by 25/1 Envoi Allen - the forgotten would-be 'superstar' from last year.

Telmesomethinggirl is another 2021 winner back for more and she's 3/1 in the Grade 1 Mares' Hurdle on Tuesday.

De Bromhead's string have struggled a touch in recent months and at 12/1 to finish the week as the top trainer at the Festival, the theory surely goes that he will do well to replicate the heroics of last time.

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Nicky Henderson

Second only to Mullins in the all-time list of Cheltenham Festival winners, Nicky Henderson went through the 70-barrier last season - he will need one winner in the coming week to ensure his tally keeps tab with his age!

If there's anyone to serve it up to the Irish, it's surely the Seven Barrows veteran and he is 16/1 to win the top trainer award.

He'll need a fast break when the Cheltenham roar goes up on Tuesday, with unbeaten duo Constitution Hill, now 9/4, and Jonbon at 4/1 set to be major forces in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle.

Surely Henderson needs the momentum of a win there to kick-start his challenge.

He's got 'Britain's banker' in 4/5 Shishkin in the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday, where victory will see Henderson out on his own with a record seven career wins in the two-miler.

Chantry House won at the meeting last spring and could be a Gold Cup outsider at 16/1, while Champ fluffed his lines in the Cleeve Hurdle in January, but could be a key player at 1/1 in Thursday's Stayers' Hurdle just the same.

Epatante is a Champion Hurdle winner already and 14/1 to reclaim the crown she held in 2020, while Henderson points to 16/1 chance I Am Maximus as being 'high-class' ahead of a possible crack at the Ballymore on Wednesday.

Paul Nicholls

Britain's champion trainer he certainly is, but Paul Nicholls doesn't really have firepower of the halcyon days when Kauto Star, Denman, Big Buck's and Master Minded lorded over Cheltenham.

The Ditcheat chief is set to travel to the Cotswolds with his smallest team, but it's a select squad and he is more than capable of imparting some telling jabs on the Irish heavyweights.

The torchbearer is Bravemansgame, a must-be-seen novice chaser with an unbeaten record and a variety of quality performances behind him this season illustrating his versatility.

He's a 2/1 chance to win the Brown Advisory Novices' Chase on Wednesday - Nicholls has compared him favourably to Denman and he may well emulate The Tank in winning that Festival contest as he did in 2007.

Unbeaten Stage Star is 13/2 to land the Ballymore and has a Grade 1 on his CV already.

Though he lacks a Gold Cup horse, Nicholls could still sample success over the track and trip as 13/2 Bob And Co bids to make amends for a late unseat in the St James's Place Hunters' Chase last year in the race that follows the Blue Riband.

Handicappers Bell Ex One at 33/1 in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and Thyme White at 8/1 in the Grand Annual are deemed as having good claims by Nicholls, who is very happy these days to cut his cloth to measure when it comes to targeting Festival success and is a sizeable 150/1 to be crowned as the week's top trainer.

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