Ireland set to run out a worthy winner at the Cheltenham Festival again | Greg Wood

Ireland, whose jump racing industry is roughly the half the size of Britain’s, has had more winners at the past six Festivals and boasts Willie Mullins as the most successful trainer

Ireland’s rugby union players are struggling to repeat last season’s Six Nations heroics, while the footballing boys in green are in a state of flux as Mick McCarthy prepares for his first game back in charge in a couple of weeks. When it comes to the country’s horsemen and women, however, what is rapidly becoming Ireland’s traditional dominance at the Cheltenham Festival is odds-on to be upheld this coming week.

At four of the past six Festivals, the last three included, there have been more winners trained in Ireland than in Britain, and there have been at least a dozen Irish-trained winners at seven of the last eight. As of last year, Willie Mullins, who started training in 1988, is the most successful trainer in Festival history with 61 winners, one more than Britain’s Nicky Henderson, who has been training for a decade longer. There are days, such as the third afternoon last year, when Irish stables string together six wins in a row – and no one seems unduly surprised.

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