Imagining the stars of Cheltenham Festival as footballers
If Willie Mullins were a football club, which one would he be? We decided to recast these trainers, jockeys and horses in an alternative sporting universe.
Willie Mullins – Manchester United
With more Cheltenham winners than any other trainer, Willie Mullins has been the Festival’s traditional powerhouse since the mid-90s.
Most of those successes were achieved in tandem with a trusty Irish captain, who is now carving out a career as an outspoken pundit.
Nicky Henderson – Liverpool
Henderson is only one Cheltenham winner away from Mullins in the all-time list, though a lot of those titles were won before the latter was properly established.
Henderson boasts plenty of star quality in his current squad, however, and has a decent chance of overhauling that tally in the next couple of years.
Gordon Elliott – Manchester City
With stables less than 100km away in the same Irish province, Gordon Elliott is Mullins’ main local rival.
At just 42 years old and with an enormous operation behind him, he’s an emerging force that has racked up plenty of major honours in the last few years.
Paul Nicholls – Arsenal
Only Mullins and Henderson have trained more Festival winners than Nicholls, though he’s struggled to keep pace with the big guns during the last decade.
He continues to run a hugely successful outfit, but hasn’t been crowned as Cheltenham’s top trainer since 2009.
Paul Townend – Bruno Fernandes
With the Mullins’ stable facing up to a future without their star turn, Townend has some very big boots to fill.
He’s got off to promising start and looks set to be their main man for many years to come.
Davy Russell – Sergio Aguero
Despite numerous rumours of his time being up, Russell remains the main man for the Elliott operation.
He relishes the big occasions, having won back-to-back Grand Nationals and ridden a winner at every Cheltenham Festival since 2006.
Richard Johnson – Harry Kane
England’s most prolific marksman.
Johnson hoovers up winners for fun during the regular season but has faced a race to recover from injury in time for the main event.
Barry Geraghty – James Milner
Barry Geraghty often goes under the radar but, at 40 years old, seems to have been around forever.
A Mr Reliable for numerous different trainers, he’s won just about every major honour going.
Altior – Ronaldo
Altior is entering the twilight years of his career but remains one of the best in the business.
He boasts an incredible leap and is looking to win three consecutive Champion Chases – a feat that would be unprecedented in the modern era.
Tiger Roll – Lionel Messi
Tiger Roll is small for a racehorse, but that diminutive stature hasn’t stopped him from establishing himself as a once-in-a-generation talent.
He possesses incredible balance, having never fallen in a record-breaking career that has brought four Festival triumphs and back-to-back Grand Nationals.