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.
This can also be a cracking market that will keep you interested over the whole four days and hopefully right up till the last race. With many firms offering in-running odds and cashout options too then, again, this can be a fun add-on market to have an interest in – meaning you’ll have a runner on your side in most of the 28 races.
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 11 seasons, 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 seven Festival winners in 2018, makes him just about the favourite again in the 2019 Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey betting market, but unlike recent years, Walsh has plenty of competition this year. Before the action starts, Ruby Walsh is around 11/4 in the ‘Top Cheltenham Festival Jockey’ but that’s the biggest price he’s been for many years, with Barry Geraghty around 3/1, Davy Russell, who was the top jockey for the first time in 2018, 9/2, Jack Kennedy 6/1, Nico De Boinville 9/1 and Paul Townend 10/1.
12 months ago Walsh rode two winners on the opening day but then suffered a broken leg on day two when his mount Al Boum Photo fell in the RSA Novices’ Chase.
So far, Walsh has ridden 59 Cheltenham Festival winners, so with just one more to hit the 60 mark he’s sure to reach that tally at some stage over the four days of the 2019 Cheltenham Festival.
Walsh will again have the pick of all the main Mullins horses over the Festival, while he’s sure to also get the leg-up on plenty of spares if Mullins doesn’t have a runners in the race.
In 2018 with Walsh out of the picture from day two it left Jack Kennedy and Davy Russell to fight it out – in the end both recorded four wins each, but with Russell having the more placed finished he won the ‘Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey’ title in 2018. Barry Geraghty and Paul Townend managed two winners, while Nico De Boinville had only one.
So, Ruby is a worthy favourite?
Barry Geragthy, will have the pick of the JP McManus-owned runners in his armoury then he’ll be a popular alternative to Walsh. He looks to have some slightly better chances this year with the likes of Sir Erec, Buveur D’Air and Champ three standout rides for him. Geraghty has been top Cheltenham Festival jockey twice before – 2012 and 2003.
Paul Townend will pick up a lot of the Mullins runners too and with Walsh injury for most of the Festival last year he picked up some nice spares and managed to get two winners – Penhill and Laurina. Despite Walsh getting the first pick on Mullins stable rides, these top jockeys don’t always get it right. It would be a shock if Townend isn’t riding winners at the 2019 Festival but it will also be a small shock he’s got enough firepower.
Of the rest, top Irish jockeys Jack Kennedy and Davy Russell, who will ride the main Gigginstown Stud horses, are certainly interesting with such a large number of decent horses to pick from, while with the Gordon Elliott camp firing in eight winners at the Festival in 2018 then we can expect this pair to be riding a lot of theirs again. These two look the main challengers to Walsh this year.
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 that 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 Harry Cobden who will ride the best of the Paul Nicholls runners and the yard seem to have some better chances this season, including Gold Cup fancy Clan Des Obeaux.
Nicholls only recorded two Festival wins in 2018 – both on the last day with Pacha du Polder and Le Prezien, but he’s expected to improve on that tally in 2019. Cobden also has an association with the Colin Tizzard yard and last year he rode one winner at the festival – Kilbricken Storm – which came from this yard. He’s around 25/1 in the betting.
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 surprise if he’s outscoring the main Irish jockeys. He’s around 33/1.
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 can’t be ruled out the Gold Cup. 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. 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 Jack Kennedy, Davy Russell, Barry Geraghty 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: Barry Geraghty & Jack Kennedy
Recent Cheltenham Festival ‘Top Jockey’ Hall Of Fame
2018: Davy Russell (4)
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 Festival
Ruby Walsh (59)
Barry Geraghty (36)
Davy Russell (22)
Richard Johnson (21)
Tom Scudamore (10)
Bryan Cooper (8)
Paul Townend (8)
Ms Nina Carberry (7)
Mr Jamie Codd (7)
Sam Twiston-Davies (7)
Paddy Brennan (6)
Nico de Boinville (7)
Paul Townend (8)
Sam Waley-Cohen (4)