It’s only 4-weeks until the 2017 Cheltenham Festival and, after a turbulent season in which many high-profile Willie Mullins horses have already been declared non-runners, it’s time to take a look at whether the Irish Champion Trainer still deserves to be odds-on to lift a fifth consecutive Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer Title.
Willie Mullins has re-written the record books when it comes to Cheltenham in the past two season, with 7-winners in 2016, and a record-breaking 8-wins in 2015, however Nicky Henderson also won the last of his 9 titles with 7 winners in 2012.
However, with Mullins having lost the services of the likes of Faugheen, Vautour, Min, Annie Power and Getabird – it may be that 4 or 5 winners will be enough to lift this year’s Trainer’s Title.
2017 Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer Betting
Willie Mullins 8/15
The opening day of the Cheltenham Festival has been a Willie Mullins benefit in recent seasons, yet it will be a surprise if he dominates the first day this year. He does have ante-post favourite Melon in the Supreme Novice Hurdle, yet that one currently doesn’t look in the same league as Mullins’ recent winners Douvan or Vautour. The Arkle and Champion Hurdle also look likely to go elsewhere this season, though Vroum Vroum Mag could get one on the board for the Closutton Maestro if she can beat Apples Jade in the Mares Hurdle. The second day looks sure to be a better one for Mullins, with Douvan looking a banker in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, whilst Yorkhill looks a worthy favourite should he take-up his option in the JLT Novice Chase. Thursday could also be a good day if Un Des Sceaux lands the Ryanair, but that looks quite competitive on paper.
Nicky Henderson 5/1
If anyone is going to steal day-one this season, it looks likely to be Nicky Henderson, and Charli Parcs is well-fancied for the Supreme Novice Hurdle by many shrewd judges in Lambourn, providing the ground is good. Altior then looks a sure-thing for the Arkle, whilst Buveur D’air has already assumed favouritism in the Champion Hurdle. Henderson also has Might Bite in the RSA and Top Notch in the JLT, whilst O O Seven and Whisper are two more-than-able deputies who could take in those races or a handicap. Henderson is a dab-hand at landing a handicap or two as well when in form, so he could easily hit 5-winners.
Gordon Elliott 6/1
The new kid on the block has already proved he can train festival winners, and an influx of Gigginstown horses this year means he’ll have loads of ammunition. He doesn’t have obvious ones for the graded races and novice races though, but he’s definitely one to watch out for in the handicaps.
Paul Nicholls 16/1
The Ditcheat based trainer continues to dominate domestic racing in England, but he’s yet to replace the likes of Kauto Star, Big Bucks and Denman, and hasn’t been top trainer at the Cheltenham Festival since 2009. It’s hard to see him taking any of the top-races again this year, though watch out for him in handicap hurdles.
Colin Tizzard 25/1
The Tizzard Stable has already had a brilliant season, and are odds-on to win the Gold Cup with either Thistlecrack, Native River or Cue Card. However, with those 3 brilliant horses likely to take each other on, it’s hard to see him having 4 or 5 winners. Finian’s Oscar could be another banker for him though.
2017 Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer Betting Summary
Another Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer Title for Willie Mullins would be no great surprise, however he looks vulnerable this year with so many stars on the side-lines – and 9-time winner Nicky Henderson looks over-priced at 5/1 to steal his thunder. Henderson has been there, done it and worn the t-shirt – and it’s easy to see him having at least 5-winners, which could well be enough to take the title this year.
2017 Cheltenham Festival Top Trainer Tip
Nicky Henderson @ 5/1 (Bet365)