No guessing game at Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Festival has come and gone for another year and the thrills and spills of jump racing’s biggest week will have left many pundits a bit lighter in the pocket.
There is always next year to try and get your money and so here is what you need to know about betting at Prestbury Park.
First of all, as with any race meeting, there is no such things as a certainly and, given the nature of the energy-sapping Gloucestershire course, that certainly rings true at Cheltenham.
Many a short-price favourite has come to grief (Un De Sceaux this year) over the testing fences and hurdles, while the famous hill has been the downfall of some of the top runners over the years.
It also provides great excitement, witnessed in 2018 by Native River’s success over Might Bite in the Gold Cup, when he outstayed Nicky Henderson’s charge to win the most coveted title in the sport.
Form over course and distance is vital at any track, and due to the unique nature of Cheltenham with its undulations as the horses meander through the countryside, it is prudent to back horses that have positive history at the venue.
Another pointer to success is the trainer of a particular animal, with Irish handlers expert at bringing their horses to the boil at just the right time.
The annual contest between British and Irish trainers was a non-event this year, with Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott dominating proceedings in the South West.
Those from across the Irish Sea see Cheltenham as the Mecca of National Hunt racing and leave no stone unturned to ensure their string are in fine fettle every March.
It is important to beware of those carrying top weight in the six handicap chases, with weight a significant barrier to success over the testing track, as in the last 11 years only 17% handicap chase winners carried more than 11st.
Punters tend to favour younger animals in those contests but history and statistics suggests that the older horses fare better, with those aged nine and above enjoying close to a 50% strike rate in the races.
The Gold Cup is unquestionably the blue riband event of the prestigious meeting and the one which sees a huge amount of betting action.
A glance at the statistics for this one shows that punters backing seven, eight and nine-year-olds have given themselves a much better chance of claiming the spoils down the years as 16 of the last 18 Gold Cup winners were in that age bracket.
Native River is aged eight and connections have already made it clear that their superstar will be back to defend his title in 2019.
All in all there is much to ponder before parting with any hard-earned cash at Cheltenham but remember it is a marathon not a sprint.
Four days of action affords many betting opportunities and so make sure you pick your races wisely.
Some will be much tougher to call so stick to what you know, do your research and then keep your fingers crossed.