With billions of pounds turned over annually on the sport of kings, horse racing really is one of the most popular events for punters to place a wager, be that midweek low-grade racing at Wolverhampton or at the other end of the spectrum such as the Jump racings pinnacle, the Cheltenham Festival.
There are vast opportunities for people to get involved in horse racing betting, meaning that the different markets available can suit different people’s interests.
There are multiple race meetings on virtually every day of the year while the major race meetings, such as the Cheltenham Festival, only come round once a year. There is excitement and trepidation all year round in anticipation of this great spectacle.
Along with the sheer quantity of racing on offer, there are also many different types of bets available for punters to delve into such as the number of lengths a horse is victorious by, or the exact finishing order of horses taking home gold, silver, and bronze.
However, the main form of horse racing betting is simply to back a horse to win, otherwise known as a straight bet. There is nothing more exciting than seeing your favourite horse that you have followed all season cross the finishing line after climbing the Cheltenham uphill finish with its head in front.
Cheltenham is the highlight of the Jump racing calendar and is where the best horses over obstacles from Britain, Ireland, and France can be seen.
In 2021, the prize money on offer for the four-day festival was over £4.5million making it the most valuable of any Jump festival in the world.
Current Top 5 Favourites To Win At 2022 Cheltenham
There are 28 races spread across the four days with 15 of those being classified Grade 1, the highest rating a race can have, meaning the quality on show is second to none.
Cheltenham itself is in Gloucestershire and has become synonymous with the racing that takes place each year, with many traveling from far and wide to see the action in person, and there is no greater following from abroad than the Irish contingent that arrive in their droves every year.
The Irish airline carrier Ryanair (also a Grade 1 race sponsor) put on an extra 30 flights over the racing period from Dublin to accommodate the loyal following.
The importance of Cheltenham continues to grow and can be judged by its importance to punters, according to bookmakers in 2021 the Jumps extravaganza accounted for 25 of the top 40 betting races of the year by turnover.
Cheltenham will always be linked with certain horses that have captured the public’s imagination over the years, be that from unlikely success stories to years of sheer dominance at the top level.
One of those that dominated at the top and grabbed the hearts of the racing nation was Kauto Star, Paul Nicholls’ star chaser that lit up Cheltenham, particularly in 2007 when landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup by 13 lengths to fellow star Denman, and then again when regaining the title two years later in 2009.
One horse that pulled on the heartstrings when winning at Cheltenham was Sprinter Sacre who claimed the ultimate comeback with his impossible dream of landing the 2016 Champion Chase after the horse suffered a heart scare.
Annie Power is another notable winner after landing the 2016 Champion Hurdle, a win which came after disappointment the previous year, as when bounding clear of her rivals she looked to have the race at her mercy before falling at the last hurdle.
This held particular significance amongst punters as many that day were on the accumulator that included Willie Mullins’ stable stars Douvan and Vautour. It has been reported that her fall in the final leg of the accumulator saved bookmakers over £100million, such was the confidence the public had in those Rich Ricci-owned horses.
You have to go all the way back to 1933 for one of Cheltenham’s most unique stories, for it was the year that Golden Miller achieved something that had never been done before or since, winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National.
Amongst Jump racing fans, the two iconic races split opinion and the answer to the question of ‘which would you rather win?’ is rarely agreed upon. But for Dorothy Paget, an iconic horsewoman in her own right, she didn’t have to worry about that predicament.
Not only did Golden Miller travel into Cheltenham folklore by landing those two races, but he was also responsible for winning five successive Cheltenham Gold Cups.
Interestingly, Golden Miller has links with Cheltenham today as he was bred by a Mr. Laurence Geraghty, Barry Geraghty’s grandfather. Barry is a well-known face at Cheltenham and having ridden 121 winners at the Gloucestershire track, he knows his way around the place.
Since 2016, there are now a total of nine handicap races run at Cheltenham, meaning that each horse will arrive with an official rating that determines how much weight they will be required to carry when running.
The best horse will carry the most weight while the perceived weakest horse will carry the least amount of weight.
The theory of handicapping horses is so that each race becomes a level playing field and enables each runner to have the best possible chance of victory.
For punters, the aim is to try and find a horse that is actually better than its rating and is therefore what’s known as ‘well-handicapped’. In essence, the horse is running with less weight than it should do and so it has a better chance of winning than its rating suggests.
There are many different types of bets on horse racing and when deciding to bet on a horse race it is important to note this, as a horse doesn’t always need to find itself in the winners’ enclosure for punters to see a return on their stake.
The most common bet is a straight bet which is when you are simply betting on something to happen and in the case of horse racing, you are betting on a horse to win a race.
Another common wager type is a forecast. This requires you to pick the first and second horses to finish in a race. This can be a straight forecast which is the 1-2 in the correct order, or a reverse forecast which is where it doesn’t matter what order the selected horses finish in.
The final commonly-used bet type is a tricast. The aim of this type of bet is to back the three horses that finish first, second and third in a selected race. This is obviously very tricky so the returns for punters can be significantly higher than other bet types.
It’s no surprise given the quality that is on show at Cheltenham that it can be hard to find winners with value. Horses may have proven themselves throughout the season at different tracks but when they arrive at Cheltenham, they can find the unique course, not to their liking.
So, when it comes to punting at Jump racings Mecca, it is important to have a clear strategy be that in the shape of course form, race trends, or owner/trainer/jockey combinations.
One way of finding that value can be in accumulators, such as the aforementioned Rich Ricci ‘banker’ accumulator in 2016. That year his horses were extremely well fancied and while there was little value in backing them as singles, there was value in combining them to make an accumulator.
With hindsight, that value wasn’t to be as we know that Annie Power fell at the last and saved the bookie’s bacon, but it is important to note that this can be a key tactic in making the most out of short-priced favourites if you fancy them to oblige.
If a horse has proven Cheltenham to be to their liking, they may be a more favourable option to place a portion of your hard-earned on than a horse that for all its great form has only been to Cheltenham once and didn’t look to enjoy the experience.
Another strategy that could pay dividends is to look at each-way prices in Cheltenham’s nine handicap races. These races usually attract big fields and for shrewd punters, they might be able to spot one that’s ahead of its mark.
The beauty of an each-way bet is that the horse only needs to be placed for you to see a return.
At Cheltenham, it can pay to look at trends from years gone by. Trainers and some notable owners can favour certain races against others, particularly in the handicaps, and will campaign their runners throughout the season the same as successful horses previously.
This can be a clue in itself when looking at owners such as JP McManus. His green and gold silks are a key feature of the Cheltenham handicaps, and he will more often than not have several runners in most races.
He’s a shrewd owner and his success at Cheltenham is unparalleled so the key here is to figure out which JP runner will be the ‘plot job’.