If you’re a fan of horse racing, Cheltenham is one not to miss! Witness the best horses, jockeys, and trainers from around the country go head-to-head with four days of spectacular jump races. This year’s event will take place between the 15th–18th March, which means many fans will already be keeping an eye on this year’s competitors to make sure they pick a winner. But how are things currently shaping up?
Here, we’ll be going through our top insider tips to help you pick the right horse on the day.
What Will Happen at the Event?
With four days of excitement, Cheltenham is home to a total of 28 races. Whether you’re looking to get involved with the major races, or have a flutter on the smaller events, there’s something for everyone.
Each day will host its own headline race, and if you’re looking for expert tips to help you make the most of each day, then you’re in the right place. We’ve put together an outline of each day, along with our betting tips and odds for all four days.
Day 1: Champion Day
Also known as Champion Day, the first day of the event hosts the Champion Hurdle. Here’s how the day will play out:
- 13:20: Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – £125,000
- 13:55: Arkle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) – £175,000
- 14:30: Festival Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – £110,000
- 15:05: Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) – £450,000
- 15:40: Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – £120,000
- 16:15: Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed) – £80,000
- 16:50: National Hunt Challenge Cup (Grade 2) – £125,000
Day 1 tips
The Champion Hurdle is the main event of day one, and last year’s winner Honeysuckle is favourite to take the title again, according to the most recent odds*. Appreciate It, Sharjah, and 2020 winner Epatanate are also ones to watch.
The final race of the day, the National Hunt Challenge Cup, can often throw up future winners of the Grand National, so this is definitely one not to miss too.
Day 2: The Queen Mother Champion Chase
The second day of Cheltenham is just as action-packed as the first, with another seven races to sink your teeth into.
- 13:20: Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – £125,000
- 13:55: Festival Novices’ Steeple Chase (Grade 1) – £175,000
- 14:30: Coral Cup Hurdle (Grade 3) – £100,000
- 15:05: Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) – £400,000
- 15:40: Cross Country Chase (Conditions event) – £65,000
- 16:15: Grand Annual Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – £110,000
- 16:50: Champion Bumper (Grade 1) – £75,000
Day 2 tips
The main event of the day is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and last year’s Arkle Challenge Trophy winner Shishkin is the current frontrunner in the latest odds. Energumene, Chacun Pour Soi, and Nube Negra have also shown promise, and may be ones to back on the day. And while last year’s winner Put The Kettle On will be racing again this year, a disappointing season so far seems to hint that a second win is unlikely.
Day 3: The Stayers’ Hurdle
Day three of Cheltenham is home to plenty of high-quality races, with the Stayer’s Hurdle — one of the most prestigious long-distance horse races in the country — being the main event of the day.
- 13:20: The Marsh Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) – £150,000
- 13:55: Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – £100,000
- 14:30: Ryanair Steeple Chase (Grade 1) – £350,000
- 15:05: Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – £325,000
- 15:40: The Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) – £110,000
- 16:15: Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) – £90,000
- 16:50: Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (Grade 2) – £70,000
Day 3 tips
The headline race may well be one of the most exciting of the whole festival, as the odds are currently some of the closest of all the races. While Flooring Porter was on track to win the title for the second year in a row, Klassical Dream has taken the spotlight and is currently bookies’ favourite. Another big hitter, Champ has also overtaken Flooring Porter in the latest odds, and Buzz may not be far behind. It’s safe to say that the winner will be anyone’s guess at this stage, so this race is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Day 4: Gold Cup Day
The final day of the Cheltenham ensures that the festival goes out with a bang. Day four hosts the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with the largest prize pot of the festival up for grabs.
- 13:20: Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) – £125,000
- 13:55: County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) – £100,000
- 14:30: Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) – £125,000
- 15:05: Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) – £625,000
- 15:40: St James’s Palace Open Hunters’ Chase (Grade 2) – £45,000
- 16:15: Mares’ Steeplechase (Grade 3) – TBC
- 16:50: Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Grade 2) – £70,000
Day 4 tips
As one of the biggest events in the racing calendar and the most prestigious event in jump racing, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a must-watch. This race is always an interesting one, and last year’s runner up A Plus Tard is predicted to take the esteemed title, according to the latest Gold Cup odds. Also among the front runners are Galvin and 2021 winner Minella Indo, though the latter will need to step it up a notch if he’s to defend his title this year.
How to Pick a Winner
With so many action-packed races going on, how can you make sure you’re putting a bet on the right horse? Picking the bookies’ favourite can be a good way to go, but if you’d like to do a little more research to ensure you really are backing the best horse, then follow our betting tips to increase your chances of picking a winner.
Check the Latest Tips and Odds
The quickest and easiest way to choose a good horse is by taking a look at the latest tips for Cheltenham. The horse with the shortest odds is the current favourite to win, and although the bookies’ predictions only come true around 30% of the time, there’s still a high chance that the horse will come out second or third if not first. Placing a bet each way can increase your chances of making some money back. However, as the odds are shortest for a favourite horse, you may not make as much money if they do win as you would with another runner.
Sometimes, it may be a good idea to pick a horse that isn’t currently favourite, but still has short odds. They’re still expected to perform well, and you may get a better return on your stake if they pull it out of the bag on the day.
Study the Horse’s Form
If you’d like to make a more informed decision, studying a horse’s form can tell you how well they have performed in previous races, which can be a good indicator of how they’ll fare at Cheltenham. You’ll find the horse’s form numbers on most race cards, and they’ll run left to right with the oldest races to the left and newest races to the right. The information you’ll see is:
- 1–9: This is the position the horse finished in the race. If the horse finished outside of the first 9 it will show a 0.
- C: Won the course before
- D: Won over that distance before
- CD: Won over course and distance
- BF: Was a beaten favourite last time out
- F: Fell
- S: Slipped
- R: Refused
- BD: Brought down by another runner
- U: Horse unseated its jockey
- C: Carried out
- L: Left at start
- P: Horse was pulled up by the jockey and didn’t finish the race
- V: Void race
- D: Disqualified
Knowing how to read this information can help you decide whether a horse is likely to do well in this particular race.
Research the Trainer and Jockey
The horse is the most important factor to consider, but the trainer and jockey can also have an impact on how well the horse races at Cheltenham. Some trainers are highly regarded for being able to bring out the best in their horses. Some big names to look out for at this year’s festival are Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, and Gordon Elliott, while horses trained by Paul Nicholls and Henry De Bromhead may also have a great chance.
Of course, jockeys also form an essential part of a race, and again a good jockey can help a horse perform at its best. Paul Townend is a regular Cheltenham festival winner, but keep an eye out for Rachael Blackmore, Nico de Boinville, and Harry Skelton who have all proven themselves to be fine competitors.
How can the Conditions Change the Race?
Doing your research can help improve your chances of picking a winner, but of course, there’s no way to predict exactly what will happen. Conditions such as the weather, temperature, and humidity can all affect the ground surface (called the going) which can impact how a horse performs on the day. Even the best horses may struggle if they’re racing on a track with conditions they’re not used to.
The morning of a race, an official steward will inspect the ground using a ‘going stick’ that tests the moisture levels in the ground. The ground is then given one of the following grades:
- Hard: Hard ground is very dry. Races rarely go ahead on a course with hard ground, as it can be dangerous for horses and jockeys.
- Firm: Firm ground is dry and is most common in the summer during flat races. Firm ground is not used for jump races like those at Cheltenham, and stewards may add a little water to soften it up.
- Good to firm: This kind of ground is dry, with a little moisture. It’s a bit slower than a completely firm track, but still fast, and is often one of the most preferred grounds for sprinters as the horses can run faster.
- Good: A good track is still quite firm with a little moisture and is perhaps the fairest of the conditions as most horses are able to run well on this type of ground.
- Good to soft: A good to soft course is similar to good ground but is still holding a little moisture. This is most common in the winter seasons a few days after heavy rain and is often considered the perfect racing conditions at Cheltenham.
- Soft: Soft ground is holding a fair bit of water and is common in the winter jumps season when the weather is wet and cold. Some horses race better on soft ground, but many find it laborious.
- Heavy: A heavy course is very damp and muddy, and few horses like to race on this kind of going.
Based on the conditions of the track, you may be able to predict which horses will fare better. If a horse has previously raced well in similar conditions, then you can safely assume that the current going shouldn’t pose a problem. You can usually find information about their previous performance and the track conditions on their racing form.
When to Place a Bet
It’s possible to place a bet on Cheltenham as soon as the opening declaration for each race is announced, usually around October. This is called ante-post betting, and you may get better value if you back a horse that wins, as the odds may get shorter if they perform well in other races leading up to the festival. However, you may also run the risk of the horse being pulled out of the race, in which case you’ll lose your full bet under ante-post rules. So, it’s best to only place an ante-post bet if you’re feeling confident about the outcome.
Otherwise, placing a bet on the day of the race can minimise many of the risks associated with ante-post betting. In this case, you can be much more confident that your horse will race, and you’ll have more information about their past performances and the going of the course, so you can make a more accurate decision. Plus, if for some reason your horse does not line up on the day, you will be able to get your money back.
How to Bet
If you’re lucky enough to be attending Cheltenham festival in person this year, you can place a bet at one of the on-course bookmakers. If you’re not attending or you’d prefer to go online, you can place a bet through a betting site or app.
In most cases, it’s best to shop around to ensure you’re getting the best odds for your chosen horse.
It’s also a good idea to take advantage of any offers or promotions, such as a welcome offer. Some may also offer faller insurance, which will give you money back as a free bet if your horse falls, unseats its rider, or is brought down.
Please gamble responsibly and within your means. Here at Mansion, we are committed to helping our customers practice responsible gambling to ensure that your time spent on our site is a safe and enjoyable experience.
* All odds are correct at the time of writing.