The ‘Top Jockey’ betting at the Cheltenham Festival is always a fascinating market and provides punters with another sub-plot to keep them interested over the four-days of top-notch National Hunt action.
In recent year’s Ruby Walsh has dominated this market – ridding the most winners over the four days a staggering 9 times in the last 10 seasons, including 12 months ago in 2017, while in total the ‘silver fox’ pilot has landed the Cheltenham Top Jockey award 10 times.
Ruby Walsh’s association with the powerful Willie Mullins team, that fired in another six Festival winners in 2017, makes him the clear favourite again in the 2018 Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey betting market
Walsh has been out injured for most of the 2017/18 season, but is expected to be back in time for the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. So far, he’s ridden 57 Cheltenham Festival winners, so with just three more to hit the 60 mark he’s sure to reach that tally at some stage over the four days.
Walsh will have the pick of all the main Mullins horses over the Festival – like Min, Un de Scueax, Getabird, and while he’s sure to also get the leg-up on plenty of spares if Mullins doesn’t have a runners in the race.
So, Is Ruby is a worthy favourite?
Barry Geragthy, who missed the 2017 Festival, is back and with the pick of the JP McManus-owned runners in his armoury then he’ll be a popular alternative. Geraghty has been top Cheltenham Festival jockey twice before – 2012 and 2003.
Paul Townend has been deputising for the injured Ruby Walsh on the Mullins runners for much of the season so you have to feel a bit sorry for him. However, he’s still sure to pick up a lot of rides for Mullins and despite getting the first pick on stable rides, these top jockeys don’t always get it right. It would be a shock if Townend isn’t riding winners at the 2018 Festival – he rode Penhill and Arctic Fire at the Festival in 2017.
However, those looking for other options away from Ruby Walsh, might sway towards Noel Fehily. This likeable jockey recorded wins on Special Tiara and Buveur D’Air last year and although Geraghty will be on the Champion Hurdle favourite – Buveur D’Air this year, he’s always in high demand and could be dangerous to overlook.
Of the rest, top Irish jockey Jack Kennedy, who will ride the main Gigginstown Stud horses, is interesting with such a large number of decent horses to pick from, while with the Gordon Elliott camp firing in six winners at the Festival in 2017 then we can expect him to be riding a lot of theirs again. Davy Russell still also have a strong link to the Gigginstown-owned horses, so it would be a shock if he’s not on the scoresheet at least once over the four days too.
Robbie Power, is another interesting contender against Ruby Walsh. He rode three winners at the 2017 Festival, including the Gold Cup winner – Sizing John. He’s got a strong association with top Irish trainer – Jessie Harrington – while Sizing John and Supasundae will be some of the big names he’ll be getting the leg-up on.
With the festival over four days then it really is numbers game, and without stating the obvious a mixture of 2 or 3 bankers in your locker, plus rides in almost all the available races (don’t forget there are a few amateur or conditional races) is the perfect cocktail to being the top jock at Cheltenham.
Did you know ? Back in the 1990’s former champion jockeys Richard Dunwoody and Peter Scudamore landed the top jockey title with only 2 wins! But, don’t forget the festival was held over 3 days back then!
Other names to mention are Sam Twiston-Davies, who will ride the best of the Paul Nicholls runners, but although it will be a shock if Nicholls isn’t picking up a few races, he doesn’t seem to have any real banker material this year so it’s hard to see Twiston-Davies challenging for the top jockey title. Nicholls also only recorded one Festival win in 2017.
Aidan Coleman might be a better outsider – he’s likely to ride a lot of the Jonjo O’Neill and Venetia Williams horses, but it would still be a shock if he’s outscoring the main Irish jockeys.
Nico de Boinville is certainly worth a mention too – he looks sure to go in with Altior in the Champion Chase and also rides Might Bite, who is the current Gold Cup favourite. With the powerful Nicky Henderson team behind him too then he’s another that might be worth a small cover bet against Ruby.
The British champion jockey – Richard Johnson – is another that is sure to get on the scoresheet, but a bit like Twiston-Davies he’s bound to have plenty of rides, but with no real bankers then he might be scrapping around a bit, and even at a double-figure price it’s hard to get too excited.
So – yes – there are a few cases to be made for taking on Ruby Walsh, with Noel Fehily, Jack Kennedy, Robbie Power and Nico de Boinville looking the best alternatives, but really it’s hard to get away from the ‘Silver Fox’.
Okay, this year the Mullins camp might not have as many so-called ‘bankers’ as in previous years, so you suspect Ruby might have to work a bit hard for title number 12, but he’s still the safest option in what’s set to be another fascinating Cheltenham Festival.
Finally, the last thing to note when it comes to this market is don’t forget that seconds, thirds and even fourth-placed finishes can help land a jockey this prize. In the event of a tie (winners) then the amount of seconds, and then thirds will be taken into account!
Best Bet: RUBY WALSH
Dangers: Robbie Power & Jack Kennedy
Recent Cheltenham Festival ‘Top Jockey’ Hall Of Fame
2017: Ruby Walsh (4)
2016: Ruby Walsh (7)
2015: Ruby Walsh (4)
2014: Ruby Walsh (3)
2013: Ruby Walsh (4)
2012: Barry Geraghty (5)
2011: Ruby Walsh (5)
2010: Ruby Walsh (3)
2009: Ruby Walsh (7)
2008: Ruby Walsh (3)
2007: Robert Thornton (4)
2006: Ruby Walsh (3)
2005: Graham Lee (3)
2004: Ruby Walsh (3)
2003: Barry Geraghty (5)
2002: Richard Johnson (2)
2001: Meeting Abandoned
2000: Mick Fitzgerald (4)
1999: Mick Fitzgerald (4)
1998: Tony McCoy (5)
1997: Tony McCoy (3)
Leading Current Jockeys At The Cheltenham Festival
Ruby Walsh (57)
Barry Geraghty (34)
Richard Johnson (22)
Davy Russell (18)
Tom Scudamore (10)
Bryan Cooper (8)
Ms Nina Carberry (7)
Mr Jamie Codd (7)
Sam Twiston-Davies (7)
Paddy Brennan (6)
Nico de Boinville (6)
Paul Townend (6)
Sam Waley-Cohen (4)