Retired jockey Robert ‘Choc’ Thornton, and Irish TV personality and racehorse owner Hector Ó hEochagáin have been named respective Great Britain and Ireland captains for the 2016 BetBright Cup.
Formerly the Prestbury Cup, the BetBright Cup is awarded to the country with the greatest number of Cheltenham Festival winners. Great Britain took the inaugural crown in 2014 and secured a narrow 14-13 victory in 2015.
BetBright Chairman Rich Ricci said: “This is an incredibly exciting time for all British and Irish racing fans, the competition between the two nations has never been tighter and the BetBright Cup represents a great opportunity for racing fans to get behind their countries.”
Robert Thornton, affectionately known as ‘Choc’, was a successful jockey and won over 1,100 races including 22 Grade 1 winners before retiring due to injury in September 2015.
Thornton commented: “I love the Festival and am thrilled to be back this year as the Great Britain captain for the BetBright Cup. Willie Mullins obviously has an extremely strong hand but you can never discount our trainers and I’m sure Nicky Henderson, Paul Nicholls and, of course, my old boss Alan King will have plenty up their sleeve. I’ll be cheering on all the GB trainers throughout the week and am sure we can secure the hat-trick!”
Hector Ó hEochagáin said ahead of the cup: “Great Britain sneaked to a narrow success last year but 2016 feels different with there being so many strong Irish fancies. The atmosphere and buzz at Cheltenham when there is a big Irish winner is second to none and I’m sure the Irish trainers will bring home the BetBright Cup.”
Ireland are currently 11/8 with BetBright to wrestle the trophy back from holders Great Britain who head into the festival as the 10/11 favourites.