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How to Bet on Cheltenham

The Cheltenham Festival is the greatest jumps meeting in the world with four days of fantastic racing.

 It does, however, come with a punters wealth warning as even the most clued-up punters tend to get carried away with the occasion. So, to help you avoid those rushes of blood to the head, I have come up with ten golden rules of betting at the festival which may not win you a fortune, but will at least help stop you losing one.

1.  Pay particular attention to previous Festival form.
Cheltenham is an idiosyncratic track which doesn’t suit certain horses, so seriously respect previous festival form. No fewer than 18 of last season’s Festival winners have entries for this year’s meeting, with half of those featuring in the first four of five in the betting. Therefore, the first port of call for punters when it comes to analysing this year’s meeting will be last year’s races.

2.  Be selective.
Just because it’s Cheltenham doesn’t mean you have to bet in every race. With six (seven on Friday) highly competitive races each day, it’s almost impossible to go through each race so thoroughly that you have every angle covered. Instead, stick to two or three races, do your homework, and the chances are that you’ll know at least as much as the bookies do.

3.  Don’t be overly ambitious.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that Cheltenham, for all it’s excitement, is just another meeting. If you fancy something that is a big price, then great, but don’t go looking for one at any cost. Find the horse first and then look at the price, rather than looking at the betting and persuading yourself that you’ve found one at a big price.

4.  Don’t take the official going description for granted.
Listen to what jockeys and trainers are saying about ground conditions after the first race in particular as this is often a better indication of the true state of the ground than the official going. Needless to say, the official race times are another important indicator.

5.  Shop around for prices.
This stands for all your betting, but even more so for Cheltenham as the races are very competitive and there can be a wide variation in the prices on offer. So, make friends with an odds comparison site and expand your portfolio of online firms, and prices. This way, you’ll get the best odds available - the difference between winning and losing sometimes - not to mention some cracking sign up offers!

6.  If in doubt, wait until the day of the race.
Far fewer horses than you think will miss their intended targets, so don’t get drawn into placing all your bets now at ‘non-runner, no bet’. Yes, it’s a good offer, but most markets are now fully formed and something pretty important is going to have to come out to force a big reduction in price. Also, one thing you can’t control a week or more in advance is the weather.

7.  Beware of top weights in handicap chases.
Weight can be a significant barrier to success, especially in the handicap chases - 21 of the last 23 handicap chase winners carried no more than 10st 11lb. Last year, all six winners carried under 11st and, of those, only Andreas (Grand Annual) could be found in the top half of the weights.

8.  Oppose older horses.
There are many horses running at the meeting aged in double figures, and the percentage call is to take them on. In the four Championship races, only one horse aged 10 or over (Moscow Flyer in 2005) has won in the last eight years. They haven't fared much better in the handicap chases - 31 of the last 34 handicap chases were won by horses aged no older than nine.

9.  Be wary of each-way betting.
Strange as it might sound, ask yourself why you’re backing something each way, or two horses in the same race for that matter - both ploys signal that that there isn’t a single standout bet in the race. And, anyway, if you're betting each-way because you're unsure if your horse will win, why are you having a bet?

10.  Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.
Put a bank together that you're comfortable with, and have a staking plan sorted out that suits your particular style of betting. And don’t get carried away and blow it all on the first day. This is now a 25-rrace meeting, so keep plenty in reserve for the final day. It’s sod’s law that the one you fancied in the concluding County Hurdle will scoot home when you’ve got no money on.

Good luck and don’t forget to check out the rest of this website for the latest Cheltenham news and tips!

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How to Bet on Cheltenham

The Cheltenham Festival is the greatest jumps meeting in the world with four days of fantastic racing.

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