What is the Prestbury Cup?
Fierce rivalry between British and Irish trainers has been a feature of the Cheltenham Festival since the days of Cottage Rake who, in 1948, became the first Irish-trained horse to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and defended his title in 1949 and 1950. The duel between Arkle, trained in Ireland, and Mill House, trained in England, in the 1964 Cheltenham Gold Cup fuelled further Irish interest in the Cheltenham Festival. Notwithstanding Covid-19 restrictions, the Irish ‘invasion’ of Prestbury Park in March each year has been a fact of life ever since.
In any event, the battle for supremacy at the Cheltenham Festival was made ‘official’ in 2014, with the creation of the Prestbury Cup, which is presented to whichever country saddles most winners over the four days. In 2014 and 2015, the Cheltenham Festival consisted of 27 races, rather than the current 28, and British trainers won the Prestbury Cup on both occasions, by scores of 15-12 and 14-13, respectively. However, since 2016, the boot has been firmly on the other foot, with Irish trainers winning, or retaining, the Prestbury Cup on every occasion. Indeed, in 2021, Irish dominance was exemplified by a record 23-5 scoreline, with all four ‘championship’ races and twelve of the fourteen Grade 1 races going the way of Irish trainers.