Cheltenham Festival jockeys – Five riders to follow at the Festival

Cheltenham Festival jockeys. Rachael Blackmore will bid to be top jockey at the Festival.Cheltenham Festival jockeys. Rachael Blackmore will bid to be top jockey at the Festival.

Brian Healy picks out five Cheltenham Festival jockeys who could be celebrating a big winner during the four days of the ‘Greatest show on turf’.

Rachael Blackmore. Paul Townend. Nico de Boinville. Davy Russell. Barry Geraghty.

These are the five big name jockeys on the list of most punters’ lips who will go into the Cheltenham Festival each armed with a top-class book of rides and any of the quintet could walk away with the accolade of being crowned the Festival Top Jockey.

For Rachael Blackmore the likes of Honeysuckle, A Plus Tard and Minella Indo await arguably the best woman jockey in the business currently; while Paul Townend has the pick of Willie Mullins’ enviable array of equine stars.


Nico de Boinville, first jockey to Nicky Henderson will similarly be spoilt for choice with the likes of Altior and Santini amongst his Festival rides; while Barry Geraghty has the likes of Champ, Epatante and Defi Du Seuil to partner.

Meanwhile Davy Russell will likely take up the main Gigginstown House Stud mantle and carry the famous colours on many of the fancied runners to run in the famous maroon silks due to the unfortunate injury to Jack Kennedy.

Russell also has the likes of Presenting Percy pencilled in as his Cheltenham Gold Cup ride and he’ll arguably be the busiest of the Cheltenham Festival jockeys over the course of the four days where he’ll likely have a ride in all the races except for the amateur and conditional riders’ events.


The likes of Robbie Power and current champion jockey Richard Johnson are also both likely to be popular Cheltenam Festival jockeys to follow throughout the meeting with the former likely to ride the best of Jessica Harrington’s and Colin Tizzard’s horse; while Johnson will feature heavily for Philip Hobbs and may link up on occasion with the likes of Olly Murphy, Warren Greatrex and even Gordon Elliott.

However, plenty more top-class jockeys also head into Cheltenham with a solid book of rides and we pick out five more riders who ought to be celebrating a big win over the course of the four days.


The popular Irish rider will certainly be in demand throughout the Cheltenham Festival with a number of trainers likely to employ his services; not least Emma Lavelle who will again turn to Coleman as regular partner for reigning Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park.

Coleman has also struck up solid relationships with Anthony Honeyball, Olly Murphy, Charlie Longsdon and he has been used as a back-up to Barry Geraghty by Nicky Henderson for horses owned by JP McManus so he could pick up an odd ride in the green and white hooped colours.

He might not have the strength in depth amongst his rides to challenge for the title of top jockey; but he should be celebrating on Thursday with Paisley Park who can retain his Stayers’ Hurdle crown.

Cheltenham Festival Jockeys. Aidan Coleman will be hoping for more Festival winners.

Cheltenham Festival Jockeys. Aidan Coleman will be hoping for more Festival winners.


Gavin Sheehan already knows what it feels like to ride a winner at the Festival and the Cork-born rider is one of the most underrated riders around.

Successful on board Cole Harden in the 2016 World Hurdle – now the Stayers’ Hurdle – Sheehan’s stock has risen year on year and the talented Irishman goes into Cheltenham with several live chances of a winner.

A successful partnership with Harry Whittington could see him take the reins on the likes of Saint Calvados and Rouge Vif; while he also has links with Olly Murphy, Venetia Williams and Warren Greatrex for whom he steered the talented Emitom into Stayers’ Hurdle contention when effortlessly winning the Rendlesham Hurdle.

The likes of Itchy Feet in the Marsh Novices’ Chase, Skandiburg, Rouge Vif and Simply The Betts could also feature prominently on Sheehan’s book of high-class rides and there’s every chance he’ll be in the winners’ enclosure this year.


The rising star of the weighing room and son of legendary Jonjo O’Neill, young Jonjo has been a revelation since bursting through last season which culminated in his first Festival win when steering Early Doors to victory in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle.

The young O’Neill has struck up a solid partnership with Colin Tizzard, and the Dorset handler may turn to the starlet to partner several big names including Mister Malarky and Copperhead on whom he won the recent Reynoldstown Chase at Ascot.

Robbie Power is in truth more likely to pick up those rides, but Tizzard is likely to utilise the junior O’Neill on some of his second string horses; while he’ll also ride for his father for whom he could hold a live chance of a winner with Annie Mc in the Northern Trust Company Novices’ Handicap Chase.

His Cheltenham Festival jockeys challenge to be crowned winning-most rider at the Festival is very likely to become unstuck; but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him lifting a trophy in the winners’ enclosure nonetheless.

Cheltenham Festival Jockeys. Rising star Jonjo O'Neill Jr is one to watch this year.

Cheltenham Festival Jockeys. Rising star Jonjo O’Neill Jr is one to watch this year.


The younger of the Skelton brothers, Harry Skelton has found himself in the winners’ enclosure a few times at the Cheltenham Festival down through the years which includes twice last year when steering Roksana and Ch’tibello respectively to victory.

Harry rides almost exclusively for his brother, leading trainer Dan Skelton, which could limit any aspirations of being crowned the best of the Cheltenham Festival jockeys.

But nonetheless he has some quality rides to look forward to throughout the four days where he’ll partner the likes of Protektorat in the Coral Cup and the unbeaten pair of Allmankind and Maire Banrigh in the Triumph Hurdle and Arkle Novices’ Chase respectively.

Benny’s King, Oldgrangewood, Roksana and Ch’Tibello could also all feature amongst Harry’s book of rides and there’s every chance he can enjoy another winning ride at the Festival.


First jockey to six-times Cheltenham Festival top trainer Paul Nicholls, Harry Cobden’s star has been in the ascendancy since joining forces with the Ditcheat handler and he can look forward to a solid book of rides over the four days.

Cyrname might be out of the Festival picture following his tired fall in the Ascot Chase, but Cobden still has a few solid chances of riding a winner including with Gold Cup candidate Clan Des Obeaux who won a second King George VI Chase crown last Boxing Day.

Cill Anna, Magic Saint, Quel Destin, Capeland and Pic D’Orhy could also give Cobden chances of Festival success although Solo’s demolition job in the Adonis Hurdle at Kempton thrust him into the Triumph Hurdle picture and he could prove the pick of Nicholls’ Cheltenham Festival team and Cobden’s biggest hope of a winner.

Although Cobden is most likely to be seen on Paul Nicholls’ horses, don’t be surprised to see him popping up on one for Colin Tizzard although he’ll be down the pecking order for the Dorset handler behind Robbie Power and Jonjo O’Neill Jr.

Cheltenham Festival Jockeys. Solo could give Harry Cobden a Festival winner.

Cheltenham Festival Jockeys. Solo could give Harry Cobden a Festival winner.