Note from the editor: Connor Gallagher returns today with a look at some key numbers to keep in mind when betting at the Cheltenham Festival:
What history tells us about the Cheltenham Festival
Year after year misinformed punters recklessly steam into short-priced jollies – horses that have been talked-up as so-called “good things” in the build-up to the Cheltenham Festival – only to be met with disappointment on the day.
Of course, no losing bet comes without an element of frustration, especially if your selection goes down by a small margin. But I believe the intensity of the emotion is very much relative to the odds stamped onto your betting slip – and I know from bitter past experience that there’s nothing more disheartening than having lumped on a short-priced favourite that gets beaten!
Those of you who backed Hurricane Fly, Grands Crus, Sizing Europe or Long Run at last year’s Festival will know exactly what I’m talking about here. Since 2005 a total of 18 horses have been sent off at odds of evens or shorter – and 10 of them were beaten (55%).
But why is it that favourites fare so badly at Cheltenham in March? Is it the elusive blend of speed and stamina that’s required to cope with the circuit’s unique characteristics? Or is it simply because Festival races are much more competitive affairs than the bookmakers would have you believe? Of course, the answer is a combination of both elements…
Indeed, the competitive nature of National Hunt racing’s showcase 4-day meeting ensures that winners here must possess a combination of mental toughness and physical robustness in equal measure. And I think the Festival’s mixture of quicker ground, bigger fields and an overall much stiffer test of stamina than the muddling small-field “trial” races contested throughout the winter months are the main reasons why many short-priced favourites are turned over at Cheltenham.
At the Festival I would generally advise opposing any horse trading at 4/1 or less in the market. In fact, no less than 10 of last year’s 20 beaten favourites were sent off at an SP of 4s or shorter – a statistic that should strike a chord with any punter currently tempted to take 4/5 about Simonsig in the Arkle, or the 3/1 available in the Gold Cup for Bob’s Worth. On the other hand, I think the opposition to Sprinter Sacre in the Champion Chase is very weak – he’s awesome – and it’s definitely a race I’d rather watch and savour than be getting heavily involved in from a betting standpoint.
I’m really looking forward to this year’s Festival – and for this professional punter the preparation started weeks ago. I’ve been painstakingly analysing the statistical evidence and reading between the form lines since Christmas to identify the horses that I think offer decent value in the ante-post markets. So I’ll know before I place a single penny of my money on the day that the odds are truly in my favour!
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