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.