Few sporting events held in the UK see as heavy a concentration of betting as the Cheltenham Festival (10th-13th March). Four days, 28 races and several hundred million pounds worth of bets make for an exciting week for punters, perhaps only comparable to US college basketball’s March Madness in terms of the frenetic pace of betting.
And, make no mistake about it: the bookies can lose out badly at Cheltenham, as was the case in 2016 and 2018. But, as a punter, you want to ensure maximum value for each bet you place as that could be the difference between making a profit or loss by the end of the week.
An example of what we mean can be found in the Gold Cup betting in the lead up to the 2020 Festival. As a general rule, the closer we get to the race, the more uniform the pricing is across all bookmakers. But there are still often significant differences of opinion, and it’s worth checking them out.
50% Profit Swing with Many Horses
For instance, Clan Des Obeaux, who will surely be a popular bet given his King George VI Chase win in December, can be found at 7/1 on Bet365 for the Gold Cup, but a standout 9/1 with William Hill. Presenting Percy is 8/1 with Ladbrokes, but 12/1 with Betfair. With a couple of popular longshots like Bristol De Mai and Chris’s Dream, the difference is starker: 20/1 for the former with Coral, 33/1 with Betfair; Chris’s Dream has a similar swing at 20/1 with 888sport and 33/1 with William Hill.
Most of those price swings represent at least a 50% increase in returns, so you would be foolish to ignore them. Yet, it should also be noted that value can be attained by picking from the plethora of bookies promotions for Cheltenham. The bookies pour millions into promotions for the festival, and sites like Freebets UK list and curate them in the run-up to the event.
Ensure Your Bookie Offers NRNB
Of course, we should point out that it’s not always plain sailing when betting on Cheltenham, especially in the ante-post markets. For example, horses can be declared for a handful of races, and thus priced in different markets. We know at this stage that Altior (2/1, various) will go for history in the Champion Chase. But take a popular horse like Benie Des Dieux, and you will see that the mare holds three entries (Champion Hurdle, Stayers’ Hurdle and Mares’ Hurdle) with just a couple of weeks to go. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that any ante-post bet has NRNB (no runner no bet) offered by your bookmaker.
Above all, you should remember that Cheltenham can be an emotional time for horse racing fans. It might sound corny, but punters have built up relationships with horses over the years, and that can be reflected in the betting markets. For instance, everyone wants to see Tiger Roll claim a fifth win at the Cheltenham Festival, and, of course, lay down a marker for the Grand National in April. But at 11/10 (best price from Betfair) for the Cross Country Chase caution should be exercised. His trainer, Gordon Elliott, has stressed that Tiger Roll has not had the same preparation as previous years. He might win, but a value bet Tiger Roll is not.
In summary, with just days to go until the Cheltenham Festival: You should be shopping around for different odds; checking the latest Cheltenham promotions; making sure you get fair terms for your selection; and, finally, betting with your head, not your heart.