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Will Ireland Continue to Dominate the Major UK Horse Races?



"Cheltenham racecourse" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Carine06

The year of 2021 in horse racing will be remembered for many different storylines. When it comes to national hunt racing, the biggest of them was the complete dominance by Ireland over trainers in the UK at the big meetings.

This doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Not only does Ireland seemingly keep producing quality young horses, but there is very little coming through the UK ranks to challenge them. A look at today’s horse racing betting and you will see that Ireland have the favourite in four out of the five main races at the Cheltenham Festival, plus the Grand National. The latter mentioned National has three co-favourites, Minella Times, Galvin and Any Second Now, all of which are 16/1 to win the race and all of them are currently trained in Ireland.

Is there anything the UK can do with the horses that are in training with the various top trainers, or are we set for another season where Ireland are going to win big at the festivals and take home all of the big UK pots?

Repeated Dominance at the Cheltenham Festival

If you want to know how dominant Ireland was at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, then just take a look at the Prestbury Cup results. They kicked things off with an impressive win for Appreciate It in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and ended the festival with Galopin Des Champs landing the last for Willie Mullins.

It was complete dominance, and with the likes of Minella Indo, Honeysuckle and Alloha winning some of the biggest prizes of the week, this was all down to quality, as well as quantity of runners and strong handicap fancies.

Not only this, but in many events, Ireland have the first and second home, and in the Gold Cup, the biggest race of the week, they had the first, second and third in the race. Not only did they provide winners, but they also had a number of horses who put in strong performances and were best of the rest.

A Grand National Repeat

That dominance did not slow down when we went to the Grand National at Aintree in April. Minella Times won the race under Rachel Blackmore, giving Henry de Bromhead a huge winner after his Gold Cup triumph at Cheltenham, but once again, it wasn’t just the first-place prize that Ireland took with them.

Ireland had the first five home in the race, the best English runner was Blacklion, trained by Dan Skelton in 6th. A total of 15 horses completed the race and came home over the finishing line, and just three of those runners were trained in the UK, in what was a very disappointing show.

Looking through the potential challengers for the 2022 renewal, it seems there are a number of Irish runners lining up to have a go at the big race once again, which is going to make it incredibly tough for UK runners to make their mark.