Betting Masterclass: Beginners guide to winning at the Cheltenham Festival 🎓

2021 Gold Cup

Finding winners can be a minefield at the best of times but this difficulty is exacerbated by the Cheltenham Festival. The best and most competitive action in the jump racing calendar brings with it an extra dose of difficulty as festival winners are valued beyond all else.

Everyone wants to win and the horses have been campaigned to peak for their big season targets. With the festival kicking off next week, we at myracing have you covered with this beginners guide to backing winners at the Cheltenham Festival. Our tips and tricks should give you a head start as you try to solve the many betting puzzles of the Festival.


1 – Don’t just back the favourite

The ante-post markets for this year’s Festival would have been formed off the back of the previous year’s results. These are then further informed by what’s happened since. As there is so much data that has gone into forming the markets, you can be forgiven for assuming that the given favourite will win.

Many of the favourites are worthy of their places at the head of the markets, but statistically speaking around half of the odds-on shots since 2004 have been beaten. This means that favourite backing is a flawed method of making profit. Jump racing is a hugely unpredictable sport, anything can and will happen and there is no such thing as a guaranteed winner.


2 – Multiples and accumulators

Despite us suggesting that just backing favourites isn’t a good idea, this doesn’t mean you should avoid favourites entirely. One way of maximising potential profit on favourites is to use multiples and accumulator bets. This way you minimise your risked stake with a large potential return.

Whereas accumulators require every leg to come in, if you subsidise this by including your accumulator horses into a selection of doubles and trebles. This means if one or two of your short priced horses don’t come in you can still make some profit.


3 – Each-way betting

Each-way betting is a great way of making profit on horses at bigger prices; the each-way part of the bet enables you to get a win at (usually) ⅕ of the odds if your horse finishes in the places. This way, if your 25/1 chance finishes third that is as good as a 5/1 winner minus your win bet.

The each-way odds being a fraction of the total price is significant because it means that if the fraction is ⅕ that 11/2 is the minimum price at which you can make each-way profit (1.1/1). Obviously this profit is minimal so everyone has their own idea of what a good each-way price is.

The bookies like to give out special offers and free bets around the Festival to encourage you to give them your custom ahead of their competitors. Extra places are often offered out in the handicaps especially. Be on the lookout for these as they can offer better value and more bet security.


4 – Do your research

This is probably the most important tip as it encompasses many facets of a successful betting strategy. You wouldn’t make financial investments into stocks without doing the research beforehand and the same should apply when it comes to betting. Below are some pointers on what to look for when doing your research.


5 – Festival and seasonal form

The Cheltenham Festival has a very unique atmosphere and it’s a totally different experience. Its races seem to be run differently even to other meetings at the same track. There are certain horses who thrive on this and it facilitates them giving a level of performance not seen in the rest of the season.

This can lead to them being well handicapped as their below par performances throughout the year result in the handicapper dropping their rating by a few pounds. Festival form is one of the first things to look for in your search for winners.

Horses are animals at the end of the day and aren’t well oiled machines that will go on any ground and in any conditions. Much like some of us, they come into their own with a bit of sunshine on their backs. These horses tend to peak in the spring and don’t necessarily show their highest performance levels in the winter.


6 – Trainer form and talking horses

Trainer form can be a significant factor towards determining success. It would be prudent to be looking out for trainers that have hit form in the last fortnight or so as it would suggest that they are peaking for a strong festival. Equally, there will be trainers that have been out of form in recent weeks so you might want to avoid them.

Preview evenings are commonplace wherein trainers, jockeys, pundits and journalists gather to share insight and tips which can be an absolute gold mine of information. There will be talking horses which frequently get discussed at these events by numerous sources and this can have a huge impact on their price in the betting markets.

Trainers can sometimes divulge that their horses have been laid out for certain races for the entire season. This can be particularly good information in handicaps because it can be less obvious and it can perhaps explain why they haven’t been at their best yet.


7 – The handicaps

The handicaps are often the hardest races in which to find winners as the aim of the handicapper is to provide every horse with an equal chance of winning. With this in mind, a few pounds can make all the difference.

Improvers have potential scope to be ahead of the handicapper which therefore increases their chances of winning. You should be trying to find horses which are going up in the ratings. This means that the handicapper doesn’t have a grip on the ceiling of their ability.

Novices running in open handicaps can be a good angle to take. Those that have form in graded novice events but are just below the level needed to win those types of races can be a good source of handicap winners. Having not run in open company they are often unexposed and progressive which can give them an edge.


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