Cheltenham Betting – A 2018 Festival Guide for Punters

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It comes but once a year but finally punters can get stuck into some Cheltenham betting and hopefully release some profits as the excitement unfolds.

Top UK Bookmakers for Cheltenham 2018 Betting


After all if you know anything about horse racing, you are surely aware of the massive popularity and importance of the Cheltenham Festival. It's attraction is far reaching among trainers, jockeys, owners, but also punters, viewers and horse racing enthusiasts. Even if you follow horse racing only occasionally, it is safe to assume that the Cheltenham Festival is one of the events that you are interesting in and watch, at least one or two of the races. Cheltenham has grown from a two-day to a four-day event over the course of the years.

When is the Cheltenham Festival?

The Cheltenham Festival takes place in March around St Patrick’s Day which gives attendees a reason more to celebrate. It is estimated that more than 250,000 pints of Guinness and over 120,000 bottles of wine are gulped down by attendees during the four Festival days. The Festival has a hugely positive impact on the local economy of Gloucestershire. Bookmakers usually make quite hefty profits on the Cheltenham betting of races. This is because punters wager about £150 million on each of the four days, or a total of £600 million.

Cheltenham Races

The number of races that are held during the Festival has increased up to 28 races in 2017. Most of the races are hurdle races and steeplechase races, but there’s also one flat race. Most of the races at the Cheltenham Festival are Grade 1 races. However there are also several Grade 3 races, as well as listed and ungraded races. A few of the races are particularly popular and it is worth mentioning them – Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Cheltenham Gold Cup and World Hurdle. The shortest race is 2 miles long and the longest is twice as many – 4 miles.

Cheltenham Betting Strategy

As there are many different races at the Cheltenham Festival it is not easy to come up with a simple betting strategy for the whole event. However there are things that you should always consider. This is regardless whether you bet on just one, or most of the races.

Betting on the favourite especially when the odds are quite low, around evens or anything below 3/1, might be the simplest and most obvious strategy, but it might not be the most profitable strategy. First of all, surprises do happen at Cheltenham betting on races. In fact, they happen a lot more often then you may think.

Jockeys Are Important

That doesn’t mean that you should not bet on the favourite under any circumstances or ever. If you go through the statistics of Cheltenham races of previous years, you will notice that a situation where a horse at odds 8/1 for example wins more often than once in eight years. Also, never underestimate the jockey, it is not irrelevant. Some jockeys are more successful than others and which jockey is riding horse definitely influences the final result. The trainers are no less important.

For example, if a jockey manages to finish 1st, 2nd or 3rd regardless of which horse he is riding, then it might be safe to assume that he will manage to do so once again. On the other hand, when a jockey has a streak of good results in a row, especially if he managed to win several races in a row, that doesn’t mean that he has to keep up his form. Everybody is bound to lose some time and, if the odds are good enough, you might consider backing another horse to win.

Consider Other Cheltenham Betting Markets and Options 

If you like to be successful and want to finish the Cheltenham Festival with a profit, you should definitely do some research on the participants, both horses, jockeys and trainers and then reach a conclusion what to bet on. Also, remember that betting on the race winner isn’t the only option. As the event approaches, bookies start offering a wider scope of betting markets both for each race, as well as special bets.

Top 3 finish the second most popular betting option for individual races. Very rarely do all 3 horses that are best ranked manage to finish in the top three. Although this can happen the odds for the lower ranked horses to finish in the top 3 are usually quite high. So it is definitely worth considering. If you believe that a horse might cause an upset, but you’re not bold enough to bet that it is going to win, betting on that horse to finish top 3 is a very sound option.

Odds and Statistics

If you are at the track and you can see the horses, it is best to check what they look and act like right before the race. Of course, nobody expects you to be a skilled vet. However if you notice something weird about the horse, for example that it is restless or nervous, then backing that horse to win might not be the best idea after all.

It is wise to focus on several races only instead of betting a small amount of money on every single race. There is typically more information on the more popular and renowned races. However there are millions of wagers on them as well, which makes the bookmakers a lot more cautious when it comes to the odds. Often, you can get better odds on some of the more obscure and less popular races.

Always study the statistics carefully before you reach a decision. There are many statistical categories that you should consider. For example, even though the first Queen Mother Champion Chase was held in 1959, only on 11 occasions was the winning horse younger than 8 years. The minimum participation age for horses for this race is 5 years.

On the other hand, the winning horse has been exactly 8 years of age on 20 occasions which is more than a third of the total number of races. However, the winning horse was 8 years old only once in the ten year period between 2006 and 2016. Facts like these might help you identify value bets, but always remember that there are no guarantees.

Bankroll Management

And finally, but perhaps the most important thing about Cheltenham betting is bankroll management. Bankroll management is important for any type of betting. However here it is especially important as Cheltenham is a 4-day festival with numerous races. If you are too careless and don’t pay attention to how much you wager and how many races you wager on, you may end up being broke before you realise.

It is best to set a specific amount of money that you are going to bet over the course of the Cheltenham Festival. Bear in mind that when you win, you shouldn’t add that to the amount that you’re going to wager. After all, you should determine how much you’re going to wager, not how much you’re going to lose and by adding all the winnings to the bankroll somehow implies that you should keep betting unless you run out of money.

You should divide your total bankroll into fractions of 1%, 2% or 3% of the full amount. Never wager more than few percent on a single bet. It doesn’t mean that you should wager the same amount on every bet though. You may wager a smaller amount on a bet at higher odds. Then wager a bigger amount of money when you’re betting on the favourite for example.

Another thing that many punters tend to neglect, especially those that attend the Cheltenham Festival, is that betting while under the influence of alcohol is never a good idea. And since a lot of alcohol is consumed at the Festival many punters make irrational decisions and often start betting compulsively. If you plan on drinking, it is perhaps best to place all your wagers for that day while you’re still sober.

Cheltenham Betting Bonuses


Many operators offer special betting promotions and bonuses for the Cheltenham Festival, especially for online betting. Some of these can be quite lucrative. The first rule that you should follow on the matter is that it is wise to claim a bonus only if it applies to the bet that you were considering placing anyways. Do not place a wager just because there is a bonus offered on it.

A bonus offer can apply on all the Cheltenham betting races. For example punters might be offered a specific bonus for any wager of a certain amount, like a £3 bonus for every £15 wager. This is bonus that you should claim, especially if the bonus terms and conditions are favourable.

The money-back bonus is another popular Cheltenham betting promotion. Some operators will give you your money back for every bet where you’ve backed a horse to win and in the end it finished second. Another example of a money-back bonus is the one where punters get their money back if the selected horse in a fence race hits the very first fence and loses as a result of that.

Bookmakers offer enhanced odds on certain selections. If you claim such a bonus you will be paid out the regular winning amount in cash. The remaining amount (the difference between the regular odds and the enhanced odds) is paid out as free bets.

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