Five jockeys to follow into battle at the Cheltenham festival
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We all know that Paul Townend and Rachael Blackmore are likely to pick up their trip's worth of winners at next week's Cheltenham festival.
That almost goes without saying.
But those two headliners aside, let's go for something less obvious here, there are still plenty of jockeys with barnstorming books of rides.
These jocks are all worth following at the Olympics of horse-racing.
Some of them are preparing for the big week, like Nico De Boinville, with a full-blown bomb squad but there are others who will slip through the gates under the radar.
Michael O'Sullivan, for example, might be going in as a relative unknown but he could end the week as a regular in the winners' enclosure.
Trainer Willie Mullins has such an embarrassment of riches that, often times, his second string have just as big a chance as the hotshots. Willie's nephew Danny took this theory to new levels over Christmas when he rode four big winners at Leopardstown.
Townend has the pick of the bunch but, at times, there's no denying it, that can be a poisoned chalice.
Closutton's next-jockey-up will fall in behind him for a few gems of ride, Il Etait Temps, Dysart Dynamo, Vauban, Gaelic Warrior, Gala Marceau included.
Mullins will also be going for three-in-a-row on Flooring Porter in the Stayers' Hurdle. Follow that man into battle.
Nico De Boinville
With 15 festival winners already, De Boinville is a jockey who thrives at Cheltenham.
He's Nicky Henderson's number one and the Seven Barrows' yard will send him out on some very fancied horses next week, such as Shishkin in the Ryanair, Epatante in the mares' and Maries' Rock in whatever race she heads for.
But best of all, and arguably the ride of the whole festival is his mount on the beast Constitution Hill in the Champion Hurdle.
Russell is one of this town's masters and he's back for one final fling. Jack Kennedy's leg break has brought him back and he comes here with big rides on the likes of Delta Work in the Cross Country, Conflated in the Gold Cup and Teahupoo in the Stayers.
Don't be one bit surprised if Russell bows out on top.
The Cork jockey is one of the best young riders on the Irish National Hunt scene, making his way with a number of trainers, but it's his relationship with Barry Connell that sets him up best for Cheltenham
Connell, the Kildare-based owner-turned-trainer has two fancied sorts in both novice's hurdles with O'Sullivan having high hopes for Marine Nationale and Good Land, who he won on over Christmas.
O'Sullivan also has the benefit of a five pound claim, which will see him pick up some more decent rides throughout the week.
Cobden has yet to really break through at the Cheltenham festival but this could be the year. Paul Nicholls' first choice jockey goes into the festival with a number of exciting rides, none-more-so than Gold Cup contender Bravemansgame and Ballymore favourite Hermes Allen.
Tahmuras is another with a chance in the Ballymore while Afadil will be in with a shout in the Boodles. Cobden may also pick up a few rides for Henry Daly and Joe Tizzard, which means he'll have plenty of shots to fire.
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