As well as the great quality of the racing at the Cheltenham Festival, the sheer volume can be rather daunting to those who wouldn’t consider themselves a habitual punter.
28 races over four days could be enough to empty the coffers of even the shrewdest racing fans, so here’s a few tips to hopefully stop you from remortgaging the house.
The Festival takes place on 14-17th March and tickets are on sale now.
Make the most of bookmakers’ special offers
Play the field. The role Cheltenham plays within the racing calendar makes it a significant window for firms to attract new customers, meaning there are some really rather generous opportunities out there. Money back offers, faller insurance as well as significantly enhanced place terms and prices are just some of those available, so sign up to a few new accounts to really make the most of their promotions.
Each way is the way forward
Give yourself a chance. The racing is so competitive and the fields so big, being able to fall back on your horse placing is a must. The handicaps are a minefield in themselves and often end with a big priced runner sneaking into the places or even winning the race. Just make sure you get the best place terms on offer. Again, bookies will be competing for your business so look for ¼ the odds and the most amount of places.
Course form is key
Don’t underestimate experience. Prestbury Park’s esoteric undulations bring out the best and worst in horses alike. Former winners at the course during the season, but especially during previous festivals, are good to follow, with returning winners a frequent occurrence.
That means trainers too
Pay attention to the handler. Winning at the festival continues to be one of the greatest honours around for trainers and the races are all valued as such. Specific trainers therefore have a clear proclivity for targeting races they’ve won before with the right horse.
Willie Mullins has enjoyed great success on the first day of the festival over the last few years, including three of the last four winners of the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and all but one of those first home in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle since its inception in 2008. His horses are always going to be short prices if not favourite for those races but take Paul Nicholls’ record in the juvenile handicap hurdle: winner of the last two editions and trained the first two home last year.
Who’s on a hot streak?
Confidence breeds confidence. Take the time to see which trainers are in particularly good form in the run up to the festival (and those that aren’t). A yard brimming with confidence is one to follow while those struggling for winners in the last few weeks warrant caution. Those with impressive strike rates recently include Mouse Morris, whose best chance is Alpha Des Obeaux in the RSA Chase, and Venetia Williams who has enjoyed a successful spell that may well continue into this week.
Spread your bets
It’s a long week. So firstly, there’s no need to bet in every race. Some favourites look unstoppable and may be worth holding onto your money for, taking the time to enjoy the inimitable spectacle of a class racehorse do what they do best.
As mentioned above, there are 28 races to enjoy, which also means it’s not worth panicking if the first day goes poorly. A festival can swing from financially ruinous to joyous in a few hours, so no shame in biding your time and riding out the losses.