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horse-racing | Wednesday, January 11, 2023 9:49 AM (Revised at: Tuesday, March 14, 2023 1:22 PM)

How to Bet on Cheltenham 2023: 10 Pointers for Cheltenham Punters

How to Bet on Cheltenham 2023: 10 Pointers for Cheltenham Punters
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The 2023 Cheltenham Festival is made up of 28 races, with four days of extraordinary world class jump racing and is the very pinnacle of the National Hunt calendar. Top trainers in Britain and Ireland increasingly focus their whole season around priming the team for this meeting.

The two left-handed courses (old and new) are notoriously challenging, each with their subtle differences that can make or break the results, and the undulations of the track can often see the complexion of races change dramatically in the closing stages.

Cheltenham’s historic old course has a shorter run-in promoting speed and those ridden handily, while the longer new course is a proper test (making it all to play for in the final finish up the Cheltenham hill).

There are many factors a smart punter will need to consider when finding value bets at the festival. In this article I will take a look at 10 Cheltenham Festival Punting Pointers to help followers find some profitable strategies during the festival week.

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#1. Bet early and shop around on the morning of each race day to find the best prices on offer with a full range of bookmakers

The Cheltenham betting market is traditionally extremely strong both on and off-course, though most of the action now does take place online away from the track.

All the big firms are come out to lay big bets of almost any size demanded, unlike the rest of the season when it can be difficult to get on (particularly if you are an astute value-seeking punter). A smart punter is better off looking for the value in the morning markets by scrutinising the range of prices on offer, with the percentages usually no more than a 100pc across a range of layers (and the place books in the handicaps usually significantly overbroke).

This is definitely the best four days of the year to be a punter, with the racing so competitive and the betting markets well established over the last few months, and all online firms keen to attract turnover.

#2. You don’t have to play in every race…discipline is key in turning a profit over the 4 days of top class racing

It is important to remember that there are four days and 28 races during the festival week – you don’t need to play in every race.

Don’t get overconfident by falling into a trap when you have backed a winner… and don’t start chasing your losses when things go wrong. Treat every race on its merits and make smart betting decisions. Remember this is the most competitive meeting of the year so pick your punches and play when you see tangible, considered value.

Ensure you always take full advantage of the best prices on offer, and play each-way when the terms are in your favour (16 runner handicaps with four places or more can be the best betting medium of all).

#3. Follow the red hot stables with a solid recent record of success

You will probably be familiar generally with the trainers that have the highest strike rates in National Hunt racing, and there is a lot of merit in following the form of these winning connections.

Don’t ignore the data, statistically the top Irish stables come back year after year and dominate during festival week. Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have won the highest percentage of races at the Festival in recent history and are sure to have very strong teams again in 2023, while it is well worth noting the form of all stables in the last couple of weeks leading up to the festival.

This information is easily gleaned from free racing sites like Attheraces or Racing Post and is an important tool in a punters armory. January/February can be tricky months for formbook followers, with flu-jabs often given to horses in this period and often this has a short-term impact on the form of the stable.

#4. Fast run races tend to suit those ridden with patience…know which jockeys excel in these races

Look for horses that are ridden patiently particularly in the festival handicaps…it is very hard to dominate and make all the running, and overall frontrunners tend to find themselves harried on an overly fast pace from an early stage.

The races at the festival tend to be extremely strongly run from the tape, so it is better as a general rule to side with those horses who are usually ridden from off the pace. UK runners (who have been dominating small fields midweek in uncompetitive races) tend to find life a lot harder at the festival, so it can be advantageous to look for those who are traditionally dropped out before coming through up the demanding final hill at Prestbury Park.

Certain jockeys over the years have excelled here, with the recently retired Davy Russell a brilliant judge of pace, while Paddy Brennan usually times things to perfection (especially on the hurdle course where he is often first to know that a wide route is the place to be).

#5. Check out previous course form at Cheltenham, particularly in the huge field handicaps

Time and again the same horses come back to Cheltenham every year and show their best form during the festival.

The unique demands of these highly charged and competitive races over the four days means certain horses are suited to the unique undulations, the strong pace and the soft ground far more than their rivals. Concentrate on horses with winning course and distance form and you should unlock a winning formula.

Watch back the 2022 festival carefully…particularly those who may have been unlucky but ran better than the bare result suggests….it is amazing how many things you will spot away from the obvious that has perhaps escaped the attention of the wider racing public.

#6. Freshness counts for plenty, especially in the handicaps, and look out for Irish runners from the smaller stables

Look for fresh, laid out runners who have not had loads of racing in the run up to the festival. Ideally your selection will have had a nice break before the big day, and the top trainers are expert at laying out horses to peak for these highly valuable graded and handicap contests.

Typically with all betting on racing over the course of the year, the value can lie away from the obvious, with smaller Irish stables well worth keeping an eye on (especially in the handicaps, where year-long plots are often hatched).

Market moves on the day are always worth noting, with yards like Charles Byrnes, Ronan McNally especially shrewd and rarely far away when the cash is down.

#7. Avoid the hype, follow the form….use your own eyes and ignore gossip and rumours that fly around during festival week

Don’t be blinkered by the noise surrounding the festival and try and avoid information overload (there is plenty of it about including around three months of relentless “preview evenings” tellingly often sponsored by the big bookmakers).

Concentrate on the form and most importantly the prices…where does the value lie? Try to avoid short prices that are often based on connections rather than any outstanding claims on what has been achieved on the track.

There is a myriad of expert advice and opinion out there but our tip is to keep it simple, focus on solid form ignoring the whispers or trackside gossip. Don’t fall foul of the hype, plan your strategy and stay disciplined.

#8. Check for track bias, especially when the rain arrives and eases the ground conditions

Watch the early races each day of the festival for any track bias. Often at Cheltenham it can be far better to race wide on the less poached-up testing ground typically in the big field handicaps.

If the ground rides soft or heavy it can be a big advantage to come up against the stands rail and those up the inside do tend to struggle in recent times. Some jockeys like Paddy Brennan are particularly expert at knowing where to position their horses (having always walked the course first).

In recent years the ground at the inside can get very chewed up (with most of the runners naturally looking to take the shortest route home), and in-running players on the exchanges can use this knowledge to find some excellent value in patiently ridden “wide” runners.

#9. Bookmaker Offers are well worth taking advantage of over these ultra competitive four days

Whether you are a recreational small staking punter, or a full time professional, this week is idea to take full advantage of all the bookmaker offers – they will be falling over each other to take your bets on such competitive racing.

There will be plenty on offer for new punters but also some great incentives for the experienced backer too. Offers could include free bets, extra places on the big field handicaps (extended each way terms/paying out for 5th 6th 7th or even 8 places), ‘cashback’ offers such as money back if you are on a faller, or even ‘double results’ if you back the winner who is subsequently disqualified.

In short, there will be a number of opportunities to get better value for your punting pound (with Best Odds Guaranteed usually included as back up on all but the most restricted accounts).

#10. The bettingexpert Nap over the four days of the festival is Stattler

My personal bettingexpert Nap of the meeting is Stattler in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, currently available at a top priced 10/1 across the firms.

He is a progressive young chaser, who has winning form at the Festival in 2022 and lost no caste at all in defeat when just touched off by Minella Indo on his reappearance at Tramore (track too sharp and giving away plenty of weight).

There is plenty more improvement to come after just a few runs over fences in a light career, and he represents much better value than the current short priced favourite Galloping des Champs.

So as the countdown begins, study the form, start your research early and get ready to enjoy a week of thrilling racing safe in the knowledge that you have a sound strategy in place.

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