The world’s greatest jumps racing meeting is coming! The four-day Cheltenham Festival, which runs this year from Tuesday 13 March to Friday 16 March, is nearly upon us. With more than 260,000 expected through the gates over the four days of racing and over £4.5 million in prize money up for grabs, this year’s Festival promises to be one of the most intriguing in the history of Cheltenham.
If you can’t make it to Prestbury Park (or even if you can), you can stay in touch with all the latest news from the Cheltenham Festival right here. Get the best betting app and online sports book markets and offers, as well as where to find the best sites and apps for race replays, form guides, tips and much more.
The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the National Hunt season and the high quality of the racing means that it tends to be the best trainers, riders and horses who have the most success. However, over the long history of the Cheltenham there has been many upsets and surprises
Unsurprisingly, Willie Mullins is favourite to be the Festival’s leading trainer and will bring a huge string of top prospects with him, including Faugheen, Next Destination, Duc Des Genievres, Yorkhill and Un De Sceaux. Gordon Elliot is second favourite, with Samcro one of his best chances of Festival success. Third favourite for the leading trainer title is Nicky Henderson, whose best chances include Buveur D’Air and Altior.
As far as the leading rider title goes, it’s impossible to look past Ruby Walsh who is currently odds-on favourite at 1-2. However, the most successful rider ever at Cheltenham with 11 leading jockey titles and a total of 56 wins at the Festival, Walsh is at this stage no dead cert to appear after suffering a broken leg in November. Recent reports suggest that he will be fit, but whether the injury impacts on his performance remains to be seen.
The second favourite to take the title is Barry Geraghty, himself a two-time winner (in 2003 & 2012) and who has piloted a total of 34 Festival winners.
The Cheltenham Festival brings the best jumping horses from the UK and Ireland (and occasionally continental Europe) together for four days of racing of the highest quality. Held in 2018 between 13-16 March at Prestbury Park on the outskirts of Cheltenham, over 250,000 people attend over the course of the Festival, with a large contingent of the crowd coming over from Ireland to add to the heady atmosphere.
There are seven races each day, and the Festival features 14 Grade 1 races, as well as Grade 2 and 3 races, listed, ungraded and amateur races. There are 14 steeplechases, 12 hurdles and 1 bumper (a flat race for National Hunt horses) on the programme.
Hurdle and steeplechases differ both in the distances covered and the size and type of obstacles horses are required to jump. Hurdle races tend to be over shorter distances than most chases (between 2-3½ miles), and the hurdles are lower and more lightweight. Steeplechases (usually called chases) are generally run over longer distances (between 2-4½ miles) and the obstacles are bigger and more solid, and there is a variety of jump types, including water jumps.
Each day of the festival has its own theme and will feature several Grade 1 races, including a main feature race.
The first day is known as Champion Day, with the feature race being the Champion Hurdle, run over 2 miles ½f. The feature race is the Champion Hurdle (2 miles), first run in 1927 and won in 2017 by Buveur d’Air (trained by Nicky Henderson). Some famous names have clinched the Champion Hurdle in recent years, including Annie Power (2016), Faugheen (2015) Hurricane Fly (2011 & 2013) and Hardy Eustace (2004 & 2005).
Other Grade 1 races on Champion Day include the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, the Arkle Challenge Trophy and David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle.
The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is also run on Champion Day.
Day 2 is Ladies’ Day and the major race on the programme is the 2 mile Grade 1 Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase. The race was first run in 1959 in honour of HM The Queen Mother (a devoted National Hunt racing fan) and was won in 2017 by Special Tiara. Other significant winners in recent years have included Sprinter Sacre (2013), Master Minded (2008 & 2009) and Moscow Flyer (2003 & 2005).
The Novices’ Hurdle, RSA Chase and Champion Bumper are the day’s other Grade 1 races.
Another popular race on Ladies’ Day is the Glenfarclas Cross Country Steeple Chase (over 3 miles 6f) which sees the field leave the course proper in a classic steeplechase over a variety of obstacles.
The third day is St Patrick’s Thursday (15 March) with the highlight of the day being the Ryanair Steeple Chase (2 miles 5f), a relatively new race on the calendar which was first run in 2005.
Un de Sceaux was the winner in 2017, with other notable jumpers among the list of previous winners. These include Cue Card (2013), Albertas Run (2010 & 2011), Imperial Commander (2009) and Our Vic (2008). The Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (3 miles) is also a stand out race on the card.
There are three other Grade 1 races on the card — the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase, the Festival Trophy, and the 3 mile Stayers’ Hurdle, the oldest race at the Festival which was first run in 1912.
The Irish have for many years dominated Cheltenham — both on and off the track — and when St Patrick’s Day falls during the Festival you can expect outstanding craic.
The Festival reaches its climax on Friday (16 March) with the running of the Gold Cup, the premier steeplechase which first featured on the card in 1924.
Run over 3 miles 2½f and 22 fences, previous winners include countless National Hunt racing legends and it has produced many engaging rivalries over the years. On Gold Cup day, the other Grade 1 races are the Triumph Hurdle (2 mile 1f) and the Novices’ Hurdle (3 miles).
Won by Sizing John in 2017, other famous winners over the years include Kauto Star (2007 & 2009), Denman (2008), Best Mate (2002, 2003 & 2004), Desert Orchid (1989) and Arkle (1964, 1965 & 1966).
Every Cheltenham Festival throws up some fascinating stories and horses to watch, and this year is no exception.
Although a relatively inexperienced jumper, Gordon Elliott’s Samcro is set for this year’s Champion Hurdle. Not yet quoted in the betting as the six-year-old gelding doesn’t currently have an entry, Samcro is still unbeaten, with his most recent outing a win in the Grade One Deloitte Novice Hurdle at Leopardstown. What has been most impressive in his career thus far is the fact that he handles all distances and has run as well over two miles as he has over the three-mile trip.
Next Destination is unbeaten over jumps after finishing fourth in last year’s Champion Bumper at Cheltenham, with Willie Mullins’ six-year-old gelding set for the Novices’ Hurdle on Day 2 of the Festival. Progressing quickly up to Grade 1 races, Next Destination jumps extremely well and has been able to withstand any pressure that has come his way. Undoubtedly an up-and-coming horse well worth watching.
The form of Faugheen, 2015 Champion Hurdle winner, has had people buzzing for some time — not because the 10-year-old gelding has been in stellar form but rather because some of his recent performances have been underwhelming. Most notably, he was pulled up in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown in December, and although his last run in the Irish Champion Hurdle showed signs of improvement, people are watching his progress very closely.
When it comes to betting on races at the Cheltenham Festival (or any horse race) there are any number of options open to you. You don’t need to be an expert to enjoy betting at the Festival, and there are types of bets for all types of punters. However, it is useful to understand how odds work and some of the most popular bet types.
Odds will either be expressed either as a fraction or a decimal. Using fractional odds, if a horse is quoted at 5/1 to win, then if you bet £1 and your bet is successful you will win £5 plus your stake (so you get £6 back in total). The same wager in decimal odds would be quoted as 6.00 (your stake is included in the quoted price).
The most straightforward bet is to back a horse to Win. You place your wager at the quoted odds and if your horse wins, you get paid put. Another relatively simple bet is Each Way. This means you are backing a horse both to win and to finish in a place (i.e., 2nd or 3rd) so you are making two bets in one. Therefore a £1 Each Way bet will cost you £2. If the horse wins, you get paid out at the full odds; if it runs a place you get paid out at ¼ of the price.
Another common and popular bet is a Tricast, where you back the first three horses in a race in the correct order.
There are many other popular multiple bet types as well. Accumulator bets (usually called accas) are bets that you make over 3 or more races. You select horses to win in several races (known as folds or legs) and if they all come in, you win. The payouts from acca bets, because of the low probability of their coming off, are often enormous amounts from relatively small wagers.
As well as accas, there are many other types of multiple bets which include different horses across a number of races in a variety of combinations. Popular types of multi include: Yankee, which features multiple bets on four horses, in which you need at least two of your selections to win to get a payout; and Heinz, which is fifty-seven separate bets on six horses in different races, where at least two need to win to get a payout. There are lots of other variations of these types of multi-bets that involve backing a number of different horses across races in various combinations.
Ante-post markets are available for most races and runners at this year’s Festival, with clear favourites emerging in a number of the features.
Nicky Henderson’s Buveur D’Air is the odds-on favourite at about 1-2 for this year’s renewal of the Champion Hurdle and to go back-to-back after winning the race in 2017. Faugheen, winner in 2015, is second favourite in the ante-post betting at 7-1, despite some indifferent form in the lead up. According to the bookmakers, however, there is no real challenger to Buveur D’Air, who will undoubtedly go off at a very short price.
Altior, also trained by Nicky Henderson, is the current ante-post favourite at about 8-11 for this year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase. Min, trained by Willie Mullins, is also amongst the fancies at around 3-1, as are Douvan (6-1), Politologue (10-1) and Fox Norton (12-1). However, Altior looks to be the stand out after a good return to racing with a win in the Grade 2 Game Spirit Chase at Newbury in February.
Willie Mullins’ Un De Sceaux at 3-1 is the current ante-post favourite for this renewal of the Ryanair Chase. Dubbed an ‘iron horse’ by Mullins, Un De Sceaux took out his third Clarence House Chase (Grade 1) at Ascot in January, a win that was significant because rather than leading from the off he had to come from some way back to win. Nicky Henderson’s Top Notch at 11-2 is currently second favourite in the ante-post betting.
As always, this year’s Gold Cup looks set to be a fascinating battle. Nicky Henderson’s Might Bite at around 4-1 is the current pre-race favourite, and with a light preparation looks set to make an exciting return to Cheltenham where he hasn’t raced since last year’s RSA Chase at the Festival.
Native River, trained by Colin Tizzard, is another to make a strong claim, particularly after an impressive win in the Denman Chase at Newbury in February. Very lightly raced after finishing third in last year’s Gold Cup, Native River with Richard Johnson aboard led all the way in the 2 miles 7½f Denman Chase, and his staying powers were there for all to see.
Last year’s winner Sizing John, trained by Jessica Harrington, is also in the reckoning to make it back-to-back wins. Currently priced at 7-1 (the same price he went off at last year), could it be that the seven-year-old slips under everyone’s guard again this year? His form hasn’t, however, been entirely impressive in the lead up, notably struggling in the Christmas Chase at Leopardstown.
For a Cheltenham mobile app to be really useful, it needs to feature a comprehensive form guide so that you can take on the bookies well armed, with everything you need to know about how your tips are likely to run.
It can sometimes be hard to get to every day of the Festival, so if you’re stuck at work but still want to see all the action, make sure the Cheltenham Festival apps you choose include live streaming of races.
Make your own judgements on a horse or rider’s performance, or research your next bet, by watching replays of the races that have gone. Look for Cheltenham race apps that offer the most comprehensive video library of previous races.
In the crush at Cheltenham, the last thing you want to do is waste time because you can’t find the form guide, or you don’t get a bet on in time because your app is not easy to use. Look for intuitive design that lets you access everything you need quickly from the home screen.