The countdown is on for this year’s Cheltenham Festival (11-14 March). And this year the annual rivalry between Great Britain and Ireland is to be formally recognised.
For the first time, the newly commissioned Prestbury Cup will be awarded to the country that trains the most winners. The leading trainer from the winning country at the Festival will collect the trophy.
The competition between the 2 countries is always fierce, but it peaked last year when the Emerald Isle won a record 14 out of the 27 races.
So who will be triumphant this year? Here are a few of the major contenders from both sides of the Irish Sea for the championship races — the Champion Hurdle, World Hurdle, Champion Chase and Gold Cup.
Cheltenham Festival championship contenders
Stan James Champion Hurdle (11 March, 3.20pm):
Ireland’s 19-time Grade 1 winner Hurricane Fly v Britain’s young pretenders The New One and My Tent Or Yours.
BetVictor Champion Chase (12 March, 3.20pm):
Britain’s Sire De Grugy takes on leading Irish hope Arvika Ligeonniere.
Ladbrokes World Hurdle (13 March, 3.20pm):
Will the Irish lady Annie Power prevent British star Big Buck’s from regaining the crown he has already held 4 times?
Betfred Gold Cup (14 March, 3.20pm):
The British pair Bobs Worth and Silviniaco Conti could hold the edge over Ireland’s number one hope Last Instalment.
Cheltenham Festival is live on Channel 4, 11-14 March with coverage starting 8am daily followed by afternoon racing live from 12:35pm.