Track Talk: What will be deemed a successful Irish Festival?
Expectations are high for the Irish going into this year's Cheltenham Festival. They probably couldn't be higher.
Depending on who you talk to, Willie Mullins is going to have three, four or maybe even five or more winners on the first day. I actually haven't met anyone yet that sees the Festival's leading trainer for three of the last four years having just the one, two or even no winners next Tuesday. God forbid.
And that's just one Irish trainer. Gordon Elliott and Noel Meade look set to have over 10 runners each, Jessica Harrington brings over the reigning Champion Hurdle winner and a Grade One winning three-miler for the World Hurdle, while Sandra Hughes is looking to follow in the footsteps of her father and Tony Martin will warrant the usual utmost respect in any race but the handicaps especially.
John Kiely will bid to give AP the perfect send off in the Gold Cup but Irish horses trained by Jim Culloty and possibly Ted Walsh will also have live chances in the final day feature.
Cheltenham are doing their bit of PR by creating some hype around the Prestbury Cup for the battle of the British v the Irish trainers but what is the number we are going to walk out of Cheltenham on Friday evening with and think 'that was a success.'
Punters being punters will dig into their pockets and decide by the size of the wad, or the absence of any cash, as to whether or not it has been a good week, but I suppose if there are 13 or 14 Irish-trained winners and you're next stop on Friday evening is Dublin airport you'd be fairly disgusted if you didn't make money somehow.
There's no doubt that with the strong team of horses making the trip across means we are well safe of the days when Galmoy saved our blushes in 1987 and 1988 and when we couldn't find a winner from anywhere in 1989 and while prior to 2008 we only managed more than eight winners twice, you'd have to say that anything less than eight in 2015 would be a disappointment.
But as strong as the Irish team is, The New One, Sprinter Sacre, Sire De Grugy, Dodging Bullets and Silviniaco Conti head a very strong home challenge and we can't forget that.
Yes, we can dream of having 14 and you wouldn't be mad to think we could even have 15 winners from 27 races next week but we could very easily 'only' have 10. Some achievement all the same.