With the dust settled on the 2022 renewal of the Cheltenham Festival, attention is quickly turning to Aintree for the prestigious Grand National Festival. And with the race for the British trainers’ championship blown wide open by the events at Prestbury Park, there is still a lot to play for at the iconic Merseyside racecourse over the course of the three days.
Of course, there will be plenty of Cheltenham runners on show and with three weeks or so to freshen up their legs, trainers will be hoping that their horses who came up short at Prestbury Park can bounce back with a win at Aintree. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at three horses who could return to form in Merseyside. Read on to find out more!
Star novice hurdler Jonbon has gained quite the following with fans of British jumps racing since his impressive debut over obstacles at Newbury back in November — beating Good Risk At All by a commanding six lengths in a maiden.
He went on to win a Grade 2 Novices’ Hurdle at Ascot in December before landing a third successive victory, again at the second-grade, in the Supreme Trial at Haydock in January.
That set up a mouth-watering encounter with stablemate Constitution Hill and Willie Mullins’ Dysart Dyamo in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle — Cheltenham’s exiting curtain raider. But the former left Jonbon in his wake, winning the Grade 1 by a huge 22 lengths in what was one of the performances of the week.
What race the six-year-old will compete in is yet to be revealed, but Nicky Henderson is almost certain that Jonbon will head to Aintree and there’s no doubt he will be heavily backed in the racing betting.
Britain’s leading hope in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Protektorat could fare no better than third in the highlight race at Prestbury Park for the Skelton brothers — trainer Dan and jockey Harry — as Henry de Bromhead and Rachael Blackmore once again stole the show in the Cotswolds, romping home on A Plus Tard in some style.
Dan wasn’t too disheartened by the Sir Alex Ferguson-owned horse’s performance in the Gold Cup though, even if he was 17 lengths behind the eventual leader, claiming that ‘the dream’s on for next year’ when speaking about the Protektorat’s hopes for the 2023 renewal of the showpiece event afterwards.
For now, though, the seven-year-old will head back to Aintree, where he has a decent record — winning on both of his trips to the Merseyside course — for the prestigious Bowl Chase and his trainer believes he has plenty of fuel left in the tank after being lightly raced this season.
Even after the Gold Cup had taken centre stage on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival, there was still drama left to unfold — with an electrifying end to the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup ensuring punters remained on the edge of their seats even as the action drew to a close.
Winged Leader, trained by David Christie, led by six lengths after the last of the 22 fences and looked nailed to on storm up the hill and secure a huge victory in the horse racing results. But the Mullins-trained Billaway, who the eight-year-old beat by a huge 12 lengths earlier in the season, had other ideas when kicked into gear by Paul Townend — finishing strongly to beat Winged Lead by a neck at the line.
His first defeat in five outings, the Northern Irish trainer will be eager for his horse to get back to winning ways straight away, and he looks set to be in with a great chance in the Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase — where he is currently the joint-favourite alongside Jett.