February 2020

Grand National Profile

While some of us (me included!) love nothing more than flicking onto Racing TV and opening up a copy of the Racing Post, for others it draws a ‘meh’. That’s of course true of just about every sport though. As the old adage goes ‘horses for courses’. How very apt here. Personally I can’t stand cricket, but anyway I digress! Unlike with most sports though, there is one race in the racing calendar that holds almost universal appeal, across ages, sexes, and nations even. I am of course talking about the one and only, Grand National. It brings to mind a certain type of memory. Office sweepstakes. Picking a horse because it’s got the same name as your Nan’s budgie. Deciding which Grand National tips to follow. That savant like family member that picks the National winner every other year. Mystic Meg, eat your heart out.

It’s no surprise that this National Hunt jewel in the crown is something that the nation takes to, as it has longevity firmly in its favour. First held on 26th February 1839, when it had the somewhat less catchy name of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the Grand National has been held every year since. Well, almost. Continuing through wars and IRA bomb threats alike (even though the threats did cause a delay), the race has only been cancelled, or rather declared void, once. This occurred in 1997 when there were two false starts, with the flag not being raised on the second occasion causing many of the jockeys to set off without realising. With hundreds of millions watching and 75 million pounds bet on the race, it was a disaster (and a very expensive mistake) that’s best forgotten and thankfully, has not ever been repeated since.

So with that unfortunate blip consigned to history, let’s now turn our eye to the rather futuristic sounding 2020 Grand National. While there’ll unfortunately be no Back to the Future style hover boards on display, there will however be a competitive and enthralling spectacle. Held on the 4th April, it will be edge of your seat stuff as the general public get to see if 5-1 favourite Tiger Roll has enough in the tank to repeat his achievements of 2018 and 2019 by becoming the first horse to ever win three Grand Nationals in a row (getting one over on Red Rum, who currently shares the two back to back wins record with Tiger Roll). Capable rivals are hot on his heels though. While Native River has been ruled out through injury, the likes of Burrows Saint, Kimberlite Candy and Walk in the Mill all hover at around the 9-1 – 16-1 range, with one or two bookmakers offering better prices if you ‘shop around’.

It won’t be long now before Tipsters all start throwing their hat into the ring and so it will be interesting to see what general consensus forms as the race nears. Does Tiger Roll already have it in the bag, or are people reading too much into past form as well as the fairytale ‘three in a row’ ending? Time will tell. Almost ten million people are expected to tune in, just as they did last year, and it’s free to air on ITV, as well as Racing UK and streamed via several bookmaker websites. Be there or be square!

Cheltenham Festival: A guide to betting on horses

Cheltenham Festival: A guide to betting on horses

Cheltenham Festival starts on the 10th March this year. To help you prepare, Peter Watton from OddsMonkey shares his betting tips to help you get the most out of one of the best horseracing meets in the calendar.

Cheltenham Festival takes place annually at Cheltenham Racecourse, also known as the Home of Jump Racing. In addition to witnessing some incredible horseracing, attendees can also enjoy getting dressed up and sampling a variety of entertainment, including a new area called ‘The Park’, where live DJs will provide a great atmosphere.

Whether you’ll be there or not, you might be looking forward to making a bit of money on the races that week. So, I’ll be sharing my tips to help you decide where, when, and how to place your bets.

Which races should I bet on?

Cheltenham Festival includes 28 races across four days. Days one and two kick off the festival with one feature race each: on Tuesday, it’s the Unibet Champion Hurdle Trophy and, on Wednesday, it’s the Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase. Day three includes two impressive Group 1 races: the Ryanair Steeple Chase and the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.

However, Friday’s big race is the most popular and potentially profitable of all. The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase, with a huge total prize fund of £625,000, will attract the best of the best in jump racing to compete over three-and-a-quarter miles, with 22 fences. So, if you’re only betting on one race that weekend, this is the one to go for.

When should I place my bets?

The betting market usually opens a few weeks before a race, and before the full list of competing horses — known as the declaration — is released. That means if you like to get in there early for a chance at the best odds, you can. Odds tend to shorten the closer it gets to a race but, if you place your bets too early, you could risk your horse not running — and you won’t be able to ask for a refund. So, there are pros and cons to both approaches.

If you want to bet on the day or at the event, check to see if your chosen bookmaker is offering any refunds in the event of a non-runner. That means you’ll be covered if your horse pulls out of the race last minute.

How can I make sure I pick a winner?

There’s no way to tell for sure what’s going to happen in any race, and that’s part of the fun. Santini, an 8-year-old trained by Nicky Henderson, is favourite to win the Gold Cup — he’s already performed well at Cheltenham and was a runner up in the RSA Chase last year. But any of the other horses could pip him to the post, and other factors like the weather and the condition of the track can influence the outcome of a race.

When placing your bets, you can base your decision on odds alone or you can look for more information like performance history and use this to come to your own conclusion. Check out Bets and Pieces’ How to Pick a Winner in Seconds if you want to choose your horse quickly. You can also pay for advice from tipsters, who do this research for you and may have some insider knowledge to share. Of course, you can always just go for your favourite name or colour jersey and leave it up to fate, too!

Alternatively, if you’re less interested in the thrill of the race and you want to guarantee a return on your bet, you could consider matched betting instead. This takes advantage of free bets offered by bookmakers to help make sure you always make at least a small profit.

The tips in this guide can help you decide how you want to bet on the Cheltenham Festival this year. Whether you’ll be there in person or watching at home, you can get in on the fun — and hopefully make some money, too.

Grand National – Betting Odds and Runners Up!

The 2020 Grand National is fast approaching, and the betting markets are starting to flesh out. Twists and turns galore are to be expected in the run-up and in fact 12-1 second favourite in the betting, Native River has just dropped out of the race (and out of the Gold Cup) due to injury. Apparently it had accounted for 7% of National bets at the time. To keep abreast with the latest info, you wouldn’t go far wrong if you checked out the Grand National Betting Guide by FreeBets.com . With a thorough schedule and free bet, market and course guides, it’s a great way to stay informed and on the right side of winning. Beyond that, using trusted tipsters you may follow, and of course your own betting ability, the rest of it sits in the lap of the Gods.

As a brief, ‘at time of writing’ betting overview, the post Native River shake-up, has two time Grand National winner Tiger Roll as firm favourite at 5-1, Burrows Saint at 12-1 and Any Second Now at 16-1 in the betting markets. For many punters it will be hard to look beyond the credentials of Tiger Roll, being that he already has back to back Grand National wins (in 2018 and 2019) in the bag. Time will tell if this record breaking effort will pay off. It’s likely to have some pretty hefty bets riding on it and so it will be edge of your seat stuff for the betting public. There’s a fine line between being a winner and an ‘also ran’. Though as many an Olympic athlete has said, second (or silver in that case) is the worst place to finish in.

Along the same lines, American motor racing driver Bobby Unser is credited with saying, ‘Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second.’ That statement applies equally to horse racing but, in the case of the 1992 Grand National the ‘guy who finished second’ happened to be the eight-year-old Romany King. Trained by Toby Balding and ridden, more often than not, by Richard Guest, Romany King had been identified by your correspondent as a possible Grand National contender – and backed accordingly, at 25/1 ante-post – when finishing a creditable fourth, beaten 8½ lengths, behind Tipping Tim in the Ritz Club National Hunt Handicap Chase at the 1992 Cheltenham Festival.

In any event, Romany King was sent off at 16/1 joint-sixth favourite, behind 15/2 favourite Docklands Express, at Aintree, and, for much of the race, looked a likely winner. The Crash Course gelding led over Valentine’s Brook and, even when headed by the eventual winner, the aptly-named Party Politics – the 1992 General Election was due to be held five days later – two fences later, refused to go away. From the final fence, the pair drew clear of their rivals but, try as he might, Romany King could never quite get on terms with the giant Party Politics and eventually went down fighting by 2½ lengths. To his credit, he finished clear second, 15 lengths ahead of the third horse home, Laura’s Beau.

Romany King returned to Aintree in 1993 for the infamous ‘National that never was’ and was sent off 15/2 joint-second favourite behind his old rival Party Politics. Indeed, he was one of seven horses to complete the course, leading at the final fence before fading to finish third behind the ‘winner’, Esha Ness. Notwithstanding the debacle of 1993, Romany King also ran in the National twice more, falling at the fourth fence in 1994 and finishing a creditable fifth, beaten 14½ lengths, behind Royal Athlete, when 17lb out of the handicap proper.

Cheltenham Festival – Champion Bumper

The Champion Bumper is a National Hunt Flat race, run over a distance of an extended two miles on the New Course at Cheltenham and is currently scheduled as the final race on day two of the four-day Cheltenham Festival, which also features the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Ever since its inauguration, as the ‘Festival Bumper’, in 1992, the Champion Bumper – which has been sponsored by Weatherbys since 1997 – has been hotly contested and, as such, has proved a valuable source of future winners. Historically, the Champion Bumper has thrown up several subsequent Grade One winners, including Florida Pearl and Cue Card. So in order to gear up towards Cheltenham tips for 2020, we thought we’d have a look at the winners of the race in 2017, 2018 and 2019 to see how they’ve fared since.

In 2017, Fayonagh, trained by Gordon Elliott, produced a strong run to beat Debuchet by 1¼ lengths with Claimantakinforgan a further 1½ lengths away in third. Fayonagh upheld the form by easily completing a Grade One double at Punchestown just over a month later and was not extended to win, at long odds-on, on her hurdling debut at Fairyhouse the following October. Sadly, less than three weeks later Fayonagh was dead, having to be put down after suffering a broken leg on the gallops at home.

In 2018, Relegate was the latest of nine winners for the leading trainer in the history of the Champion Bumper, Willie Mullins, staying on well from an uncompromising position with a furlong to run to win by a neck. The Flemensfirth mare subsequently finished a well-beaten seventh of ten, beaten 25 lengths at Punchestown and was beaten again, at 4/9, on her hurdling debut at Punchestown the following November. She did win a maiden hurdle, albeit narrowly, at Naas the following month, at odds-on, but was only fifth of sixteen, beaten seven lengths, when stepped back up to Grade One company at Leopardstown the following February.

In 2019, Envoi Allen was the second winner in three years for Gordon Elliott, finding extra near the finish to justify favouritism by three-quarters of a length from Blue Sari with Thyme Hill in third, beaten a further 1¼ lengths. Envoi Allen was sent straight over hurdles the following November and so far, is 3-3 over obstacles, including two Grade One wins; he remains a very smart prospect.

And so what does Cheltenham Festival 2020 have in store for us with regard to the Champion Bumper? The race is due to be held at 5:30pm on day two of the prestigious racing festival (11th March) and a little over a month out the market is starting to shape up. Clear favourite to win right now is the versatile Appreciate It at 9/4 with most bookmakers. Its closest rivals according to the market are Panic Attack at 9/1 and Israel Champ at 10/1. It’s no great surprise to see the Willie Mullins horse so short and strolling to victory in the Goffs Future Stars (C&G) I.N.H. Flat Race certainly didn’t hurt his cause. Then again, the Champion Bumper is notorious for under-performing favourites. As always, time will tell!