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Dublin star John Small: ‘My dad brought me racing when I was younger. I’d say I’ve been to every course in Ireland’

The six-time All-Ireland winner joins Johnny Ward and Donn McClean to preview this year’s Cheltenham Festival on the latest episode of The Punt.

A YEAR ON from receiving strong criticism for going ahead with fans at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cheltenham Festival takes place behind closed doors next week. 

In the latest episode of The Punt — our monthly show sponsored by William Hill that focuses on the major sporting events — racing experts Johnny Ward and Donn McClean preview the biggest week in the racing calendar.  

They are joined by Dublin footballer John Small, a six-time All-Ireland winner who is also a keen racing fan thanks to his late father, Declan. 

The former Ballymun Kickhams chairman sadly passed away in December 2019 after a long battle with illness.

“My dad would have sparked my interest in racing,” Small says. “He would have brought me to a huge amount of racing meetings when I was younger. I’d say I’ve been to every course in Ireland.

“We used to go to Leopardstown, Punchestown, Fairyhouse and the Curragh all the time. I just had a huge appreciation for the horses and the sport. I was grabbed by it from a young age and it continued on from there.”

Screenshot 2021-03-12 at 12.10.43 Declan Small, Willie Mullins and John Small at Mullins' yard.

Small — whose brother Paddy also plays for the Dubs — talks about becoming a father for the first time and what life in lockdown has been like for an inter-county footballer, while Donn reveals his GAA past with the Louth minors.

After addressing the recent Gordon Elliott controversy, the trio then get stuck into previewing all four days of the festival including the feature races — the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Gold Cup.

There are plenty of tips throughout with the latest William Hill odds, but here are the lads’ Naps of the week: 

  • Johnny Ward: Tritonic to win the Triumph Hurdle 9/4
  • Donn McClean: A Plus Tard to win the Gold Cup 6/1
  • John Small: Koshari to win the Coral Cup 9/1 

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This episode of The Punt is also available in audio-only form wherever you get your podcasts.

NB: The show was recorded before news broke today that Energumene (Arkle) and Thyme Hill (Stayers’ Hurdle) have been ruled out

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