Matt Newman: “Think outside the box for Cheltenham Festival success”

Scene from the Supreme 2017.

It’s just ten days until the start of the Cheltenham Festival 2021. The lack of public attendance will make this a very different four days of action. The basic rules will be the same, study the horses, find the bookies offering best price and most places paid, then sit back with a beer and enjoy.

As a veteran of Cheltenham, I want to share a few hints and thoughts that can hopefully provide you with a successful meeting. We’ll have our free horse racing tips for every single race of the week, but that is only the tip of the iceberg to maximise those four days. The best way to do that is to get away from the crowds and think outside the box.

Don’t be afraid to play the places

We all love to back winners. That’s the essential truth whatever way you slice it, but as a punter, you don’t have to find the winner to be successful. Favourites only win about 30% of the time on a day to day basis, play the percentages.

The bookmakers will be falling over themselves to gain your business and extra places in handicaps are a must. Sure Willie Mullins might have one that you feel is a plot but then if everyone else has come to the same conclusion, you end up on a 4/1 favourite in a race like the Coral Cup!

Now, you might pick up a 4/1 winner and fair play to you but if I like something at a bigger price, say 20/1, and there are six places on offer, i can pick up a 5/1 winner for finishing a soundly beaten sixth rather than having all my eggs in one basket, desperate for a winner. Some bookies will also provide place only markets closer to the day, place multiples are an interesting angle in.

If you back any of our selections you can watch them live on the free Racing Post app or Simply log in to one of your bookmaker accounts and click ‘Watch live’ on the racecards.

Don’t take ‘form’ as gospel

This is a huge topic area and covers the points below as well. It’s also probably the most common mistake that punters make. Just because Horse A beat Horse B in a five-runner dawdle at Kempton doesn’t mean the same will happen in a twenty runner race run at a relentless gallop at Cheltenham.

Take Allmankind in the Triumph last season. He bossed fields as he liked until coming to Cheltenham, forced to go a stride quicker by Aspire Tower and Goshen snapping at his heels early on and he had little left for the hill.

Once more as a novice chaser, he has had things all his own way, add Energumeme to the mix and the entire complexion of the race is very different. Whilst he has undoubtedly been impressive to the eye, he’s had things all his own way and that ‘form’ despite reading 111, is liable not to stand up at the festival.

Location, location, location

Previous Cheltenham form is king. There are certain horses who just come alive at this time of year with a bit of warmth on their back. This ties in neatly with being wary of how form is read. A horse like Melon for example has been to the Cheltenham Festival four times with form of 2222.

The most recent three of those, he was beaten a combined fifty-four lengths in his final prep race at Leopardstown. Don’t be surprised if the return to Prestbury perks him back up. He won’t be the only one. There are always ones each year that in hindsight we kick ourselves over. Previous festival form is there but their efforts that current season had been below par. Don’t be put off by ‘form’ away from Cheltenham for those who love the track.

Beware false favourites

This is a difficult one. We all want to see stars and sometimes we swallow hype a little too easily. It’s no surprise that a race like the Mares Hurdle where Concertista heads the market is one that Willie Mullins has dominated.

She won at the meeting last year but had been beaten by Black Tears (14/1 here) prior to that. Concertista notched a 147 RPR winning the mares novice in 2020, Indefatigable (33/1) produced the same RPR winning the Martin Pipe as did Dame De Compagnie (13/2) landing the Coral Cup.

While Concertista has improved slightly on that with a 151 and a 152 this season, the form in the book doesn’t entitle her to be the 5/4 favourite in this field. Favourite, yes, that short, absolutely not.

Indefatigable is the interesting one, two runs at Kempton this season (0/5 right-handed now) will have set her up perfectly, her form at this track of 5121, the wins in the spring months of March and April.

If there are four or even five places on offer, she ties all the above points together in one neat 33/1 package! Don’t be afraid to walk your own path at the Cheltenham Festival. Think outside the box, find the value, enjoy the four days and most importantly of all, please gamble responsibly.

Get clued up for the festival with the latest Cheltenham tips and Cheltenham free bets to get a head start on your festival punting. 

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