The ‘Top Jockey’ betting at the 2021 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 cash-out 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 and the option to trade out over the Festival.
In recent years, Ruby Walsh has dominated this market – ridding the most winners over the four days a staggering 9 times in the last 12 seasons, while in total the ‘silver fox’ pilot has landed the Cheltenham Top Jockey award 11 times.
However, with Walsh now retired this has opened the door for some new names to throw their hats into the ‘Cheltenham Top Jockey’ ring.
In 2019 we saw, Nico de Boinville crowned top Cheltenham Festival jockey for the first time with three wins – Altior, Pentland Hills and William Henry. He’ll have the pick of most of the Nicky Henderson runners again this year – including the likes of Shishkin – so is sure to attract some support.
With Ruby now retired, this will also give a much better chance to Paul Townend, who for so many years had to pick up the scraps that Ruby didn’t want to ride for the powerful Willie Mullins yard. This was backed-up 12 months ago at the 2020 Festival, when Townend rode a final day three-timer to land the top jockeys’ title for a first time with five wins.
Townend will again get first dibs on the Mullins runners and will also pilot most of the Ricci runners this year too – including bankers like Chacun Pour Soi and Monkfish. He’s also landed the Gold Cup for the last two seasons at the Cheltenham Festival with Al Boum Photo.
Add in other big chances like Appreciate It, Energumene, Gaillard Du Mesnil and Kilcruit then it will be a brave man that takes Townend on in this market again in 2021 – he’s the clear current favourite and barring injury it will be a big shock if he’s not defending his Cheltenham Festival top jockeys’ title again in 2021.
Of course, nothing is certain and unlike trainers, jockeys can get injured, so putting a bet on Townend at likely short odds will probably win you a return after the four days, but should Townend hit the deck on the opening day and get injured then this would pave the way for someone to take his place on all these big fancies.
Therefore, this bet is never really over till the third or four day.
His main rivals, will be other leading Irish jockeys like Davy Russell, who had 3 winners at the 2020 Festival, Jack Kennedy, Racheal Blackmore and Mark Walsh, who will ride the bulk of the JP McManus runners, while on the domestic front Richard Johnson, Aidan Coleman, Harry Cobden, Harry Skelton and Sam Twiston-Davies are all big names.
However, all Townend’s rivals this year seem to lack the firepower that he’ll have at his disposal. As mentioned, Townend has big chances in most of the main graded races and that’s before we’ve even got into the handicaps!
Girl Power – During the 2019 Cheltenham Festival it was also the turn of the ladies to make a name for themselves with Rachael Blackmore firing in two winners, plus Lizzie Kelly and Bryony Frost joining the party too with a win a-piece.
Of that trio, Rachael Blackmore looks to have the best chances and will have the Henry de Bromhead yard in her corner too. She’s going to be in strong demand in the handicaps, plus has the star mare Honeysuckle to ride, who will be a warm order no matter what race she opts for.
Of the rest, Jamie Codd rode two winners at the 2019 Festival and another in 2020 – he’s sure to pick up some good rides again in 2021, but as an amateur can’t ride in most of the races.
In summary, Paul Townend, who has ridden 15 Festival winners to date, looks the one all the others have to beat with the powerful Willie Mullins yard behind him.
Of the rest, I think a small interest on Rachael Blackmore might not be a bad call at around. I think she can come out on top of the ladies and last year’s two winners will give her a lot of confidence.
Finally, if you can get a triple-figure price on Jamie Codd that just looks too big too me if any firms are offering each-way on this market. Yes, he can’t ride in all the races being an amateur, but just two winners might be enough to get an e/w payout in this market with Townend likely to be aiming for between 5-7 winners.
JUICESTORM VERDICT: PAUL TOWNEND
Dangers: Rachael Blackmore, Nico de Boinville & Jamie Codd
Recent Cheltenham Festival ‘Top Jockey’ Hall Of Fame
2020: Paul Townend (5)
2019: Nico de Boinville (3)
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
Davy Russell (25)
Richard Johnson (21)
Paul Townend (15)
Nico de Boinville (11)
Tom Scudamore (10)
Mr Jamie Codd (10)
Bryan Cooper (8)
Sam Twiston-Davies (7)
Paddy Brennan (6)
Sam Waley-Cohen (4)