The 2019 Cheltenham Festival is well underway, but the race for the coveted top jockey prize still has a long way to go before the winner is confirmed on Friday.
Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, Paul Townend, Davy Russell and Rachael Blackmore are among the star riders vying to win the award, which is given to whoever pilots the most winners across the week.
But who will come out on top and win the Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey 2019? We run through the five main contenders, and who their best chances are for the rest of the week.
It’s no surprise that Walsh is the favourite. Not only has the Irishman ridden the most winners at the Festival 11 times, he also got off to a flying start on Day One with Klassical Dream in the Supreme.
His fall on Benie Des Dieux in the Mares’ Hurdle has brought the doubters out. But with a book of rides that includes Footpad, Faugheen and likely Bellshill in the Gold Cup – he the one to be feared.
The County Kildare rider’s partnership with Willie Mullins ensures him of a number of game fancies throughout the week.
Geraghty won the Top Jockey award in 2003 and 2012. His remaining 2019 Festival playbook hints that he could be on the premises again at the conclusion of the four-day meeting
Defi Du Seuil is the JLT favourite, Epatante is fancied for the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle and Classic Novices’ Hurdle winner Birchdale has a fantastic chance in the Albert Bartlett on Friday.
That’s without the likes of Anibale Fly in the Gold Cup and Sire Du Berlais in the Pertemps Final.
The 28-year-old has several interesting types over the coming days, including Real Steel in the JLT and old favourite Un De Sceaux in the Ryainair. He could pick up other rides across the week too.
Three-time Irish champion jockey Russell won’t give up his Top Jockey crown lightly. Delta Work got him off the mark on Day Two, while he has Gold Cup favourite Presenting Percy yet to come.
Add in a smattering of outsiders on Day Three and Four and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Russell will match or improve on his tally of four winners from 12 months ago.
Could we see a first ever female Top Jockey? There’s no reason why not, especially with Rachael Blackmore’s book of rides across the rest of the Festival.
The first lady of Irish jumps racing has a decent chance in a number of the Handicap contests, including with Cuneo and Valseur Lido, while Monalee should go close in the Ryanair.
After getting off the mark on Day One with A Plus Tard, you’d have to be a fool to write off the exciting jockey.
Best of the Rest
Harry Cobden and Harry Skelton will both need a bit of luck to win the award now although Mark Walsh remains an interesting price after wins aboard Espoir D’Allen and City Island.
He should be aboard one of the week’s big favs with Sir Erec in the Triumph. A few more winners in-between would see him shorten.
Nico De Boinville and Jack Kennedy – second last year on countback – round out the main contenders.
All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication