Outside of the races themselves, there are a number of exciting side bets for punters to get involved with during the upcoming Cheltenham Festival. Perhaps the most popular of those is the Top Jockey market which is always a competitive one from both a betting, and sporting point of view. This year it appears to be a two-way race with Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty the main challengers for the famous pink arm band.
Last year was a brilliant one for Barry Geraghty as he claimed the top jockey award at the Cheltenham Festival for the second time. The Irishman racked up five winners during a remarkable run of form and any repeat of that this time around would surely see him take the crown once again. As we know, Geraghty can rely on the pick of the rides for trainer Nicky Henderson who is in the midst of preparing a frighteningly strong Festival string.
Provided that they all remain fit and well, Geraghty can look forward to getting the leg up on the likes of Simonsig (Arkle), Sprinter Sacre (Champion Chase) and Bobs Worth (Gold Cup) at the festival this year. Most believe that Sprinter Sacre is unbeatable while Simonsig and Bobs Worth will start their races with at least a favourite's chance at Prestbury Park.
We are yet to even mention the likes of Grandouet (Champion Hurdle), Riverside Theatre (Ryanair Chase) and Oscar Whisky (World Hurdle) who are also more than capable of winning for Geraghty. Punters taking that into account here will quickly work out why he is the favourite to rack up more winners than anyone else at Cheltenham next month.
The main challenge to Geraghty will surely come from Ruby Walsh who has picked up the Cheltenham Festival Jockeys crown on no less than six occasions so far during his career. Walsh will have his pick of rides from Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins and that alone means he has to be respected. It is something of a transitional year for Nicholls but he still has plenty of quality in his yard while Willie Mullins has been on fire, as always, over in Ireland this season.
Walsh can look forward to rides on the likes of Hurricane Fly (Champion Hurdle), Silviniaco Conti (Gold Cup) and Quevega (Mares Race) among many others during a busy week at Cheltenham. Punters can be sure that Walsh will be right in the mix when it matters and provided he gets a bit of luck, he is sure to be hot on the heels of Geraghty in the race for the arm band. Taking that into account, Walsh can be backed at 3/2 in the current Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey Betting market which could prove to be a nice piece of value.
There are a host of other jockeys available at bigger prices including AP McCoy and Jason Maguire, but one who does catch the eye is Davy Russell. The Irishman is the retainer for the Gigginstown House Stud owned horses and they do look to have a particularly strong string this season. Russell will be on board the likes of Sir Des Champs (Gold Cup), Un Atout (Supreme Novices) and Bog Warrior (World Hurdle) among plenty of others during the Festival.
It is more than possible to imagine that Davy Russell would pick up at least a winner or two during the week, but he simply cannot compete with the fire power at the disposal of Geraghty and Walsh. The two market leaders are almost impossible to oppose and on balance it is Barry Geraghty who is the likely winner of the pink armband this year. He has an almost unbelievably strong book of rides to look forward to, and it would be no surprise to see him at least match his 2012 tally of five Festival winners on his way to a third title.
Recent Cheltenham Festival Top Jockey Winners (Number)
2012 - Barry Geraghty (5)
2011 - Ruby Walsh (5)
2010 - Ruby Walsh (3)
2009 - Ruby Walsh (7)
2008 - Ruby Walsh (3)
2007 - Robert Thornton (4)
2006 - Ruby Walsh (3)
2005 - Graham Lee (3)
2004 - Ruby Walsh (3)
2003 - Barry Geraghty (5)
2002 - Richard Johnson (2)
Number of Cheltenham Festival Winners - Current Jockeys