Last updated on February 10th, 2023 at 05:47 PM
The Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the year for every jump jockey in the UK and Ireland. The meeting is one of the reasons they go through such an intense training routine throughout the year.
As well as keeping their body weight down to ensure they are as light as possible for their rides, jockeys also need to have a strong upper body, as they are required to push their horses out at the finish of a race.
Here is a look at the leading jockeys at the 2023 Cheltenham Festival this year, and the ones who could be set to have a big week at the major international meeting in Gloucestershire.
Irish rider Paul Townend was the leading jockey at the 2022 Cheltenham Festival and he could be set for another big week this year.
He will ride many of the leading fancies at the meeting, including Galopin Des Champs, who is the 6/4 favourite in the betting on Cheltenham races for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Townend is the retained jockey for Irish Champion Trainer Willie Mullins. The Irishman is the long odds-on favourite at 1/8 in the 2023 Cheltenham top trainer betting market, and his number-one rider will get his pick of those horses.
The five-time Irish Champion Jockey has had 22 Cheltenham Festival winners in his career. He has established himself as the rider for big occasions in recent years, so he will have no problems handling the pressure at the meeting.
Nico de Boinville
With more Grade One wins than any British jockey still riding today, Nico de Boinville has won some big races throughout his career. He is set to partner Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle this year. The horse has been described as a “freak” by his trainer Nicky Henderson.
De Boinville has won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Queen Mother Champion Chase (three times) during his career so far. He will be hoping to add to his tally in the Championship races this year.
It has been a rollercoaster season for Irish jockey Davy Russell. He retired from the saddle back in December, but he has come out of retirement due to Jack Kennedy’s injury.
Russell is set to partner many of Gordon Elliott’s runners at the Festival, which should ensure he enters the winners’ enclosure on more than one occasion.
At the age of 43, Russell is one of the oldest jockeys in the weighing room today. It is a testament to his diet and training that he remains at the top of his sport.
History was made at the Cheltenham Festival in 2022 when Rachel Blackmore became the first female jockey to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Irish chaser A Plus Tard.
She could be set to land a lot of the headlines once again at the meeting, as she will ride A Plus Tard and Honeysuckle in the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Mares’ Hurdle respectively.
Blackmore has had another brilliant season in Ireland. She is often praised for her tactics and her ice-cool calmness in the saddle. The Gold Cup and Grand National winning jockey is very popular in the sport, so any success she has is likely to go down well with racegoers across the week.
This year’s Cheltenham Festival starts on the 14th of March. The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is the first of 28 races across the week at the meeting.