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Contender Files – BetBright Cup

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The BetBright Cup was set up last year to highlight the battle between Great Britain and Ireland at The Festival and to reward the team which produced more winners over the four days.

Last year, GB pipped Ireland 15-12 in the first-to-14 contest and took home the trophy, complete with some hallowed Cheltenham turf.

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AP McCoy
With more than 4,000 winners to his name, there are few that doubt AP McCoy is the greatest jump jockey of all time.

The Northern Irishman has been named Champion Jockey for the past 19 seasons, but this will be his final Festival, having announced his plans to retire by the end of the current season.

In 2010, at his 15th attempt, he rode the winner of the Grand National when he led Don’t Push It to success at Aintree. As a result, McCoy became the first jockey to be awarded the BBC Sports Personality of the Year accolade.

Barry Geraghty

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Having notched a winner at each Cheltenham Festival since 2002, Barry Geraghty’s regular book of strong rides makes him a valuable asset for the Irish team.

Five victories at both the 2003 and 2012 Festivals saw him top the jockeys’ tables and he has won almost every race at the meeting, including four Queen Mother Champion Chases and two Gold Cups.

As principal rider to powerful trainer Nicky Henderson, Geraghty can look forward to partnering the likes of Sprinter Sacre, Bob’s Worth and Peace And Co at this year’s meeting.

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Bryan Cooper
Two years ago, at the age of just 20, Bryan Cooper burst on to the Cheltenham scene with a dazzling treble when he led Benefficient, Ted Veale and, memorably, Our Conor to victory at The Festival.

That trio of successes meant he finished just one winning ride behind Ruby Walsh and cemented his burgeoning reputation as one of the rising stars of the weighing room.

Cooper’s potential had not gone unnoticed and in January last year he was named as stable jockey for Gigginstown House Stud, owned by Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary.

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Jessica Harrington
As trainer of legendary chaser Moscow Flyer, Jessica Harrington is no stranger to success at the Cheltenham Festival with the duo landing the 2002 Arkle Chase as well as the Queen Mother Champion Chase in both 2003 and 2005.

Harrington also masterminded Bostons Angel’s 2011 RSA Chase win, whilst Jezki’s victory at the 2013 Festival gave Harrington her first Champion Hurdle crown.

The gelding will line up to take on Faugheen, The New One and Hurricane Fly at this year’s renewal, whilst Grade One winner Jetson looks for glory in the World Hurdle.

Nicky Henderson

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Named after his late father Johnny, the final race of the Cheltenham Festival is a sentimental one for trainer Nicky Henderson.

So, in 2012, when Bellvano crossed the finish line first, Henderson was understandably proud. He had further reason to smile, though, as the race produced his seventh winner of the week – a record which still stands.

In fact, no trainer past or present can match Henderson’s tally of 51 winners since 1985. That feat includes a record five Champion Hurdle successes and two Gold Cups, so Great Britain will be hoping the three-time Champion Trainer can guide them to further success.

Paul Nicholls

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With four Cheltenham Gold Cup successes under his belt, it is no surprise to see one of Paul Nicholls’ charges at the forefront of fans’ minds for this year’s renewal.

The eight-time Champion Trainer, who saddled Kauto Star (twice), Denman and See More Business to glory in the blue riband race, has aimed Silviniaco Conti at the contest for the past two years, but he now finally looks primed to strike.

Despite the retirement of one of the greatest staying hurdlers in history – Big Buck’s – Nicholls is sure to have plenty of strong fancies to help Great Britain’s charge.

Ruby Walsh

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The most successful jockey in Cheltenham Festival history, Ruby Walsh has topped the meeting’s jockeys’ table in eight of the past 11 years – with a strong book of rides already in place for this year.

His incredible 2009 feat of seven winners during the week has yet to be matched by any other jockey and, with the likes of Un De Sceaux, Faugheen, Annie Power and Vautour well-fancied, Walsh is likely to add valuable winners to the Irish challenge.

Vautour gives Walsh the chance to add the JLT Novices’ Chase to his portfolio, one of only two races to have eluded him at The Festival so far.

Sam Twiston-Davies

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After starting out under the tutelage of his trainer father Nigel, Sam Twiston-Davies is now retained rider to Paul Nicholls and thought of by many as a future Champion Jockey.

The switch is already beginning to prove fruitful, with Sam landing Group 1 success when Dodging Bullets won the Tingle Creek and then later beat Sprinter Sacre on his return to the track in the Sodexho Clarence House Chase at Ascot earlier this year.

Despite his new role, Sam will still partner his father’s horse The New One in what is set to be a strong renewal of the Champion Hurdle.

Great Britain will be hopeful Sam is the replacement for Ruby Walsh that Nicholls has been searching for.

Willie Mullins

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Leading trainer at the Cheltenham Festival two years running, Willie Mullins is the biggest weapon in the Irish arsenal for this year’s meeting.

With Un De Sceaux, Annie Power, Douvan, Don Poli and Faughenn all well-fancied runners on day one alone, Mullins could hand the Irish contingent an early advantage in the BetBright Cup. On day two, he is expected to deliver with Au Quart De Tour in the Champion Bumper – a race he has won on a record eight occasions.

Mullins’ strike rate in bumper and hurdles races at The Festival is better than in chase contests, but he will be missing the retired Quevega this year – with the super mare previously providing a guaranteed victory.

Jonjo O’Neill

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After swapping life in the saddle for a career in the stables, former Champion Jockey Jonjo O’Neill is becoming a regular winning trainer at the Cheltenham Festival.

His three winners at last year’s meeting – Holywell, Taquin Du Seuil and More Of That – gave him his first Festival winners since Synchronised won the Gold Cup in 2012.

Before that, O’Neill saddled Albertas Run to consecutive Ryanair Chase wins in 2010 and 2011, whilst he has also led Wichita Lineman and Alfie Sherrin to victories in the Festival Trophy Handicap chase, the race won by Holywell last year.

One of many racing enthusiasts around the globe, love both flat and national hunt racing. Part-own a racehorse, and used to be involved in a couple of slow greyhounds around the Romford circuit. Favourite NH horses would be; Kauto Star, Denman, Challenger Du Luc, Monsignor, Guitar Pete, Harchibald, Istabraq - the list is effectively endless.... @OHRacing Google+

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