Inaugural BetBright Cup to replace the Prestbury Cup at racing’s finest Festival
With the inaugural BetBright Chase Cup getting underway Cheltenham Trials Day, we’re delighted to announce another exciting development which will see us become a permanent fixture at the Cheltenham Festival over the next three years and beyond!
The Cheltenham Festival has been traditionally associated with the Irish, as thousands of racegoers-cum-revellers flock to the Gloucester racing event each year.
Considering the massive association with the sport which is prevalent in the Emerald Isle, there is little surprise that Ireland has enjoyed an increasingly burgeoning record in recent Cheltenham Festival events.
It is this combination of passion, prestige and performance which has led the organisers of the Cheltenham Festival to conceive of a new addition to the event.
The Prestbury Cup, named after the nearest village to Cheltenham Racecourse, was awarded for the first time in 2014, as an acknowledgement of the increasing rivalry between British-trained horses and those of their Irish rivals.
The first contest was marginally won by the UK, but Ireland will hope to get its revenge this time out and we’re delighted to announce a new, three-year deal securing naming rights to this prestigious award; The BetBright Cup, which adopts the same format as the original.
The inception of The BetBright Cup
Many racegoers may not realise that the format of the BetBright Cup shares something in common with a very different pursuit; the notion that the competition remains open until one of the two competing countries has amassed 14 winners is similar to the way that the world chess championship was organised until the 1980s.
A fateful match between Anatoli Karpov and Garry Kasparov which featured 35 draws in 37 games spread over several months soon put paid to that!
Thankfully, The BetBright Cup cannot run and run like that particular contest, and should make for a much more digestible spectacle.
The idea for the competition came about due to the 2013 edition of the Cheltenham Festival, during which there were 14 Irish-trained winners. This made event organisers wonder if the two nations could face off together competitively over the 27 races of the festival.
Of course, the nature of racing is not too dissimilar to football teams in the sense that quite frequently, Irish jockeys are riding UK trained horses, and vice versa.
So one needs to bear in mind before contemplating the BetBright Cup any further that it is only Irish and British-trained horses that will contribute to the ultimate result of the competition.
While many pints of Guinness are sunk by Irish attendees of the Festival, the event has also greatly benefited from some world-class Irish horses, jockeys and trainers.
As the prestige of the event has grown in recent years, and become particularly associated with Ireland, attracting huge amounts of enthusiastic racing fans to cross the Irish Sea, so Irish trainers have begun to perform particularly well in this racing spectacle.
What can be said is that in terms of the all-time leaders in training, Ireland still has a little way to go to catch up with Britain.
This is perhaps not all that surprising considering that the festival takes place in Gloucestershire and the number of British runners still far outnumbers the Irish entries, but it is still worth noting, considering the extent to which auspicious such names as Ruby Walsh, Jonjo O’Neill and Willie Mullins have been associated with the event in recent decades.
An age-old battle between two fine horse-breeding nations
The most successful trainer of all time at Cheltenham is Nicky Henderson, who holds the proud claim of being the only trainer in the history of this prestigious racing event to have hit a half-century.
The 64 year-old Henderson is something of a living legend within the sport, having been crowned British jump racing Champion Trainer three times, and having so far amassed precisely 50 winners at Cheltenham.
The magnitude of this achievement shouldn’t be underestimated, as Paul Nicholls is a full 20 winners behind in second place, although he has managed to accrue this number of victories in a record period of time.
Already, us bookies have slashed the odds to less than evens that Nicholls will overtake Anderson in the coming years and become Cheltenham’s most successful trainer in its history.
One needs to go deep into the annals of Cheltenham history to find the top Irish trainer. Tom Dreaper is a legendary figure in the Emerald Isle’s racing circles, but the highly successful trainer was in fact born in the 19th century.
No Irish trainer has yet to match his haul of 26 winners, but although this is a record that has stood for many years, it might not last too much longer. The aforementioned Willie Mullins is already on 22 winners, and will surely overtake Dreaper in the near future.
Mullins has been one of two prolific Irish trainers over the last decade, with Jonjo O’ Neill having netted 18 winners of his own. But although the Irish are an extremely passionate presence at Cheltenham, their chances of carrying off the BetBright Cup must be pretty limited when one looks at the statistics.
When Willie Mullins was the Champion Trainer at the event in 2011, this represented the first time that an Irish trainer had carried off this award since Edward O’Grady back in 1996.
Obviously, when the top trainers have so rarely hailed from Ireland, the chances of the nation triumphing in the BetBright Cup can’t be overly inflated.
This was reflected in the odds for the event last year, which had Ireland as 3/1 outsiders before a race with run. Although the bookmakers’ prognosis was ultimately correct, the result was perhaps closer than they expected, with Ireland netting 12 victories during the festival, to lose by 15 points to 12.
Perhaps the new scoring system which has been implemented this year will grant Ireland a better chance of ultimate victory, although our odds suggest that it’s still a fairly one-sided affair, with Ireland currently trading at 10/3 for The BetBright Cup, The UK as 1/5 favourites and the draw can be backed at 25/1.
One notable statistic that Ireland can boast in its favour ahead of this year’s Cheltenham is that the nation lays claim to the most successful active female trainer.
Jessica Harrington has netted seven Cheltenham winners in her career, which might not sound like a huge number, but only eleven people on the planet who are currently active in training have achieved more.
Regardless of the odds against Ireland lifting the BetBright Cup, one can be certain that huge numbers of visitors from the nation will still travel to Cheltenham with hope in their hearts, and that every Irish winner will be enthusiastically proclaimed by the thousands of Irish racing fans in attendance.
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