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The short-priced favourites don't always win at the Cheltenham Festival. They don't. No, really they don't. You think they will now but they won't, I promise you. Facile Vega, Constitution Hill, Energumene, Lossiemouth – these good things won't all win this week. I say that with certainty because the certainties do get beaten. There have been 58 odds-on shots at the festival since 2004, 30 of which won and the remaining 28 lost. So that means at least two of the aforementioned odds-on favourites are likely to lose. Figuring out which ones, that is the problem.
Don't get too carried away
Timing is the key to winning at Cheltenham and it seems to me there are three phases of betting. The first is securing long-range prices about horses with big chances. The next time to consider betting is when all the bookmakers go non-runner, no bet. With so many choices of races, year in year out horses switch from one to another late on and the non-runner, no-bet concession gives you that safety blanket. Finally, and clearly the most important one, is the day of the race and, with the bookmakers all fighting for business in competitive races, it is often then that the best value is found. As for strategy, I don’t do anything different. The hype machine starts for the Cheltenham Festival the day after the previous one finishes and it’s easy to get sucked into bad bets. The same principles apply to a Cheltenham race as they do any other in that you should always try to find horses who have a better chance than their price suggests. The hype machine dictates that certain horses are shorter prices than they actually should be on form and that provides punters with chances. Over the last 20 years I’ve taken on all the short-priced ones with varying degrees of success. However, you don’t need many 16-1 shots to come out in front and every year there are plenty of upsets due to the competitive nature of the contests. The final bit of advice is always the most important and it’s simply not to get too carried away. It’s only horses running around a field and, while Cheltenham is the best four days, there are more than 300 others and there’s no need to have a bet just for the sake of it.
Don't be scared to back the second or third string
When a trainer with numerous talented horses in one division enters two, three or four in a race it is common to dismiss them all other than the first string, citing that the rider would have had the choice and therefore the others aren’t as good. This hasn’t always proved the case in recent years, though. Eglantine Du Seuil’s 50-1 success in the Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle a couple of years ago – a race in which Willie Mullins had seven runners, including 13-2 shot My Sister Sarah – was one of several examples of stablemates getting the better of supposed first strings. It’s important to assess each individual horse on face value.
Pay attention to certain gambles
The markets are never stronger than at the Cheltenham Festival and it takes a significant amount of money for a horse to shorten appreciably. Therefore, big market moves at this meeting should be viewed more favourably than at most others. Last year Brazil (Fred Winter), Delta Work (Cross-Country), State Man (County Hurdle) and Billaway (Hunters Chase) were all the subject of strong support before their respective races. Don’t miss out on following the money.
Expect the unexpected
The best horses could look bombproof all year long but the Cheltenham Festival is prone to throwing up some shock results. This is where the best meet the best and you can’t always take a load of ‘1s’ next to a horse’s name for granted. The likes of Honeysuckle, Sir Gerhard, Allaho and Vauban rewarded short-priced punters with comfortable successes at skinny odds 12 months ago, but there were also a few shocks over the four days, most notably Shishkin’s defeat in the Champion Chase. He had looked unbeatable all season but failed to fire, so it is fair to say you have to expect the unexpected. Not every ‘good thing’ will prove to be just that.
Don't ignore Cheltenham form
Time and time again, Cheltenham form stands out when it comes to finding winners at the Cheltenham Festival. This might sounds obvious, but the amount of flat track bullies who've gone off single figures only to hit the wall at the second-last is an expensive roll call. I'm not suggesting you back every horse with festival form, but the best Cheltenham Festival tips for punters would be - if you're choosing between a handful of chances and one of the has run well at a previous festival, put extra weight on it.
Class is best in Coral Cup
You can be forgiven for looking towards the bottom of the handicap in races such as the Coral Cup – a big-field handicap hurdle with a mixture of proven Graded horses, well-handicapped performers and young, unexposed types. But in the majority of recent years it has paid to stick towards those at the top of the racecard, with seven of the last ten winners donning a single-figure digit between one and eight on their number cloth. That suggests you should always nail your colours to the mast of a proven Graded-level runner in the field.
CHELTEHAM BETTING TIPS: TRY MULTIPLES
Our racing experts are the best in the business and spend hours studying so you don’t have to. Most frequently our tipsters will select a single horse for a single race, however, the Cheltenham Festival is a unique sporting event which some punters see an opportunity to bet on life-changing multiples. We have published a range of multiple bets or you may want to simply combine some of our Cheltenham races tips yourself. Below is a breakdown of the most popular horse racing multiples you can bet on.
One bet consisting of two selections in different races. Both horses must win (or place if the bet is each-way) to guarantee a return. If the first selection wins, everything that would have been returned is then staked on the second selection.
A double is a single bet consisting of two selections in different races. Both horses must win (or place if the bet is each-way) to guarantee a return. If the first selection wins, everything that would have been returned as a single, is then staked on the second selection. This is a good way of multiplying the value of two selections and each-way doubles are popular as the place part of the bet runs on to the second selection even if the first doesn’t win. A place double will often yield enough for the full stake to be returned should both selections make the places, so it’s a solid way of attempting to cover your stake on the win part of the bet. Try combining two Cheltenham Festival Tips together to maximise the value from your bets.
Similar to a double bet but containing three selections rather than two, a treble is a single bet on three horses in different races. All three selections must win (or place if the bet is each-way) to guarantee a win with the returns of the first selection staked on the second, then the returns of the second staked on the third. This is a useful way to multiply the odds on several horses.
An accumulator is a bet that combines four or more selections in one bet. As with doubles and trebles, this is a group of horses in different races and all of them must win (or place if the bet is each-way) to guarantee a return. Due to the high number of selections the odds are bigger and the risk is greater but, with so much accumulating, the reward for a win is often substantial. Plenty of punters will dream big with a Cheltenham Festival accumulator. The odds of landing this type of bet are slim, but focus on the Cheltenham bankers and short priced favourites that have a higher chance of winning to boost the odds of your betslip.
This is one of the most popular multiple bets among racing punters and the clue is in the name as a Lucky 15 consists of 15 bets on four horses in different races. That equals four singles, six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold accumulator.
The beauty of the Lucky 15 is that only one selection of four must win to guarantee a return and the majority of bookmakers will offer incentives to play the bet. Most will pay out at double the odds if you select one winner, while several pay a bonus of up to 10 per cent for four winners.
The problem is that even if one selection wins at double the odds, it’s highly unlikely the original full stake will be covered and you can still end up losing on the bet despite having had a winner. Some of the most popular bets during the festival, yielding the biggest payouts, are when punters combine our expert’s Cheltenham tips into a lucky 15.
Basically a Lucky 15 without the four single bets, a Yankee consists of a total of 11 bets on four horses in different races. That equals six doubles, four trebles and a four-fold accumulator. Given we’ve forsaken the singles, a minimum of two selections must win to guarantee a return but that should at least cover the initial outlay and in most cases two winners will secure a profit. Similar to the Lucky 15, why not combine our expert’s Cheltenham Festival tips into a multiple that pays out if 2 or more selections win, to maximise the potential payout.