2020 Cheltenham Festival tips – Mark Walsh’s rides

Mark Walsh Champion Hurdle Cheltenham

Mark Walsh lifts the Champion Hurdle trophy at Cheltenham in 2019.

We take a look through Mark Walsh’s rides at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival and highlight his best chances of winning when the meeting begins on Tuesday 10th March.


Quiet and unassuming, it’s easy to forget that Mark Walsh is one of the finest Cheltenham jockeys in National Hunt racing. 12 months ago, Walsh claimed the biggest victory of his career in the Champion Hurdle, guiding Espoir D’Allen to a surprise victory. Although Barry Geraghty remains JP McManus’ lead jockey, Walsh picks up many big rides in those famous green and yellow silks, riding out for the likes of Joseph O’Brien, Gordon Elliott and Willie Mullins.

Let’s take a look through Mark Walsh’s rides at the Cheltenham Festival, to see who might hand him another big-race victory or two, with all the latest Cheltenham Festival tips to match.

Mark Walsh’s rides at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival

FAKIR D’OUDAIRIES

Joseph O’Brien’s youngster has taken to chasing like a duck to water. Fakir D’Oudairies hacked up to beat Melon easily on debut, before cruising to a 20-length triumph in the Grade One Drinmore. Fakir D’Oudairies then went down to Notebook at Leopardstown, but I’m sure if he had the opportunity, Walsh would ride that race very differently. There’s a chance O’Brien’s charge could enter the Marsh, but Fakir D’Oudairies really wants soft ground, so an outing in the Arkle on day one seems much more likely. Read my Arkle preview here.

CITY ISLAND

The day after that stunning success with Espoir D’Allen, Walsh lifted his second Grade One in as many days as City Island (14/1 William Hill) took the scalp of Champ in the Ballymore. Chasing hasn’t gone to plan this term, so Martin Brassill has decided to drop back to hurdles and take aim at Paisley Park in the Stayers’ Hurdle. He could prove a popular each-way Cheltenham Festival tips.

PHOENIX WAY

With Barry Geraghty set to partner returning winner Sire Du Berlais, Walsh could be tasked with riding Phoenix Way (8/1 Ladbrokes) in the Pertemps Final. Harry Fry’s talented six-year-old looked to have plenty in hand when sealing victory in the qualifier Huntingdon on his first start of the season. Walsh rode Unowhatimeanharry to Stayers’ glory at Punchestown for Harry Fry last season, and he would be delighted to secure Walsh’s services at the Cheltenham Festival.

SHATTERED LOVE

Gordon Elliott’s attempt to make Shattered Love (16/1 Unibet) into a Gold Cup horse failed last year. A drop in class and trip resulted in a bloodless triumph for the former Marsh winner at Clonmel back in November, and Shattered Love ran another cracker in the recent Red Mills Chase. Walsh was in the saddle on both occasions, and he also guided Shattered Love to Grade One glory at Leopardstown in December 2017.

A mark of 151 would leave Shattered Love carrying a decent weight in the Brown Advisory Plate and, with Davy Russell likely to ride Ben Dundee, Walsh could get the leg-up on Elliott’s mare once again. She could also be a popular each-way 2020 Cheltenham Festival tip in the Ryanair!

A WAVE OF THE SEA

Walsh decided that Cerberus was his best chance of winning the Spring Juvenile Hurdle. Jumping the last, it seemed his decision was right. Yet, Cerberus tied up in the closing stages, allowing stablemate A Wave Of The Sea (14/1 Ladbrokes) to come through and claim victory. With a blistering early pace all-but-guaranteed in the Triumph, I’m sure Walsh would choose to ride a fast closing in A Wave Of The Sea over Cerberus – who could even be sent to the Boodles instead, evident in our Cheltenham Festival tips.

JANIDIL

Willie Mullins novice looked well ahead of the handicapper earlier in the season, sealing a hat-trick of impressive wins. Walsh was in the saddle on all three occasions, guiding Janidil (14/1 Unibet) to victories at Tipperary, Down Royal and finally at Fairyhouse. Although he does hold an entry in the Supreme – read my Supreme preview here – I’d be amazed if Janidil didn’t run in the County Hurdle and Walsh’s mount could be the one they all have to beat.

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