Will the Luck of the Irish Strike Again on St Patrick’s Thursday at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival?

The penultimate day of the four-day Cheltenham Festival has become known as St Patrick’s Thursday whether the patron saint of Ireland’s feast day actually falls on it or not. When you look at recent years, it’s easy to see why.

Racehorses trained in the Emerald Isle have absolutely cleaned up on this card at the premier jump meeting of late. Five of the last six winners of the Marsh Novices’ Chase came across to Britain from there and, of all the runners for the Cheltenham day 3 races , the unbeaten Envoi Allen, who has been switched to Henry de Bromhead’s stable, is widely considered the Irish Festival banker this year to further enhance that record.

In the other St Patrick’s Thursday Grade 1 races, there is a similar pattern. Four of the previous five Ryanair Chase victors made a successful raid on Cheltenham from Ireland, and the leading contenders this time around are being readied there.
The only race on this day that doesn’t have an Irish-trained favourite is the Stayers’ Hurdle. That honour falls to 2019 winner Paisley Park, who is out to regain his crown following a failed attempt at defending it at the Festival last year.

Two of the last four Stayers’ Hurdle winners came from the Emerald Isle, however, so the course experience of Sire Du Berlais carrying big weights in handicaps shouldn’t be lost on anyone looking at this race.

Speaking of those, there are three held on St Patrick’s Thursday. The Pertemps Final ends a series of staying handicaps held across the UK and Ireland, for which The Bosses Oscar was the market leader. The handicapper went hard on The Bosses Oscar, however, and we now have a new favourite, Imperial Alcazar. He is trained by Fergal O’Brien.
Not since 2015 have the British beat their Emerald Isle neighbours in that particular event. Three of the last five winners of the Festival Plate Handicap Chase and Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup apiece were Irish-trained too.

The latter event will be different this year, as no amateur jockeys are allowed to ride at Cheltenham – one of three races effected across the meeting as a whole. What remains the same is a Kim Muir market leader in Run Wild Fred, who hails from the Emerald Isle.

It’s a similar story with the Plate and Farclas, a previous Festival winner after landing the 2018 Triumph Hurdle earlier in his career for the same stable and owners – the mighty Gigginstown House Stud. Well-handicapped Irish racehorses are certainly to be feared at Cheltenham.

So is Willie Mullins, particularly with his mares. The Grade 2 Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle has never gone to another trainer since being introduced to the Festival in 2016.

This is an event which the Irish have a stronger hand for than their British counterparts once again this year. It would be brave to bet against another dominant display from Mullins, de Bromhead and other Emerald Isle trainers on St Patrick’s Thursday.

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