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The Cheltenham Festival 2018 in March (Tues 13th – Fri 16th) is the most important race meeting of the year for the betting industry and horse odds in the UK, both in shops and betting online. The major races always feature in the top 20 for betting turnover and viewing figures. So, to take advantage of this, we have a compiled a list of promotions that will make it even better watching your horse race down the final furlong.
Given it is such a big event, the major bookmaking brands have numerous Cheltenham betting offers and Cheltenham bonuses in an attempt to attract new accounts and maintain the loyalty of existing customers. Cheltenham Bonus Offers are heavily promoted leading up the event, so its nice to have an overview of the best bonuses and free bets out there. Given there is still a bit of time until Cheltenham, most of the bonuses given here are generic that can be used for Cheltenham Festival, as well as across the different bookies sports markets for the time being. However as the day draws closer, we will be sure to bring you the best and latest offers available.
All Cheltenham betting odds are subject to fluctuation. Furthermore, all statistics are based on the Cheltenham Festivals from 2006 to 2017.
Races at the Cheltenham Festival create a great deal of ante post betting online interest. Major bookmakers will offer betting odds on the major championship races a full year ahead of the meeting. When a horse looks impressive in one of the novice events some customers like to back them in the senior races the following year in the relevant discipline. However, ante post betting can be fraught with danger because if a horse that has been backed does not run, stakes are lost. Cheltenham Betting Odds from Betfred, Betway and William Hill are prominent in the ante post markets for each Cheltenham Festival. Furthermore, Cheltenham races betting is massive for race fans who consider a betting strategy for the meeting. In fact, although the Grand National is regarded as the most significant single race for the betting industry and media, the Cheltenham Festival is the most important meeting in terms of horse odds. That means regular press devote more column inches to Cheltenham than any other meeting throughout the year, as punters snap up some of the great odds available.
In the lead up to the meeting bookmakers will offer a concession of non runner/non bet for the major championship races. This offer takes out the risk of ante post betting odds because if a horse does not run in a specific race bets are void and customers receive a full refund. The trade-off is that other firms will offer better prices. Customers must decide to take the higher odds but potentially lose their stake or have the insurance of non-runner rules at less competitive prices. As the festival gets closer more bookmakers apply non-runner rules and more races are covered, including the handicaps so race betting is more risk free. This concession often affects betting strategy.
The Cheltenham Festival consists of 28 races over four days and takes place in the second or third week of March – in 2018 the Cheltenham Festival dates are March 13th – 16th. The meeting has been described as the Olympics of National Hunt racing or the Greatest Show On Turf. The festival features championship races over hurdles and fences and a variety of distances. While the bumper is the most prestigious Flat race of the season for National Hunt bred horses and always run as the final race on the Wednesday. The Cross Country race and Foxhunters are the pinnacles for those disciplines and are always spectacles to watch.
One of the major subplots of the Cheltenham Festival is the haul of winners trained in Britain and Ireland. A trophy is now awarded to the nation that has the biggest haul and usually Britain are the marginal favourites in the latest betting odds. However, in recent years it’s been the Irish that have had the more Cheltenham Festival winners. The success of Irish trained horses is a reflection of the state of the economy and a recovery in that context has seen plenty of investment in National Hunt trained horses in Ireland. In 2017 from the 28 races, the UK-based trainers took 9, while Ireland won a staggering 19!
Before you place any bets, and make use of some of our Cheltenham bonus offers, take a look through our detailed guide of the Cheltenham Festival’s courses and races, along with some tips, so you know you will get good value for your odds.
Cheltenham is the home of jumps racing in Britain because of the nature of the track and location. The course lies in the Cotswolds in Gloucestershire just below Cleeve Hill and the views are stunning. The location is within relatively easy travelling distance from London and the Midlands and there are excellent transport links from the north. The layout is undulating and a horse must have speed and stamina to excel. There is a large gradient after the last obstacles when many races are decided. The track really is is a true championship test.
In total, Cheltenham racecourse has three courses, the old, new and cross country:
This course is used on the first two days of the Cheltenham Festival. It is one mile four furlongs in distance and is quite tight. The hurdles course has six obstacles and the chase course has nine fences. The Old Course suits horses who travel well and can race close to the pace.
This course is used on the last two days of the Cheltenham Festival. It is longer than the Old Course at one mile five furlongs. There are six hurdles on each circuit and a total of ten fences. Ex-Flat horses who see out the trip generally excel.
This is a course on the inside of the main tracks that is used for cross country races which involve a number of types of obstacle. The course is used for trials throughout the season and the most prestigious cross country race of the season on the second day of the Cheltenham Festival.
There are 14 Grade 1 races over the course of the meeting but each day includes a feature comprising the four most important championship races. Live odds have been available for these races for almost a full year:
The Champion Hurdle is the most prestigious hurdle race of the season and is the pinnacle of the discipline at around two miles. The race consists of eight hurdles over a circuit and a little of the Old Course. The first Champion Hurdle was run in 1927.
The Champion Hurdle often brings together previous winners of the race and the best novices from the previous season and the 2018 renewal looks like producing that scenario again. The current champion – Buveur D’Air – will be all the rage again as the Nicky Henderson runner looks to follow-up his win in 2017.This JP McManus-owned hurdler will be 7 years-old by the time the 2018 Champion Hurdle comes around, but that is the perfect age with 9 of the last 15 winners aged 6 or 7, while 13 of the last 15 were aged 8 or younger.
At this stage his biggest threat of retaining his title looks to come from the 2015 champion – Faugheen. This Willie Mullins-trained former winner will be looking to regain his Champion Hurdle title after being plagued with injury since 2015-16. He returned to the track at the end of 2017 with a smooth win at Punchestown to suggest he retains much of his old ability and if making the final line-up will be popular with the Irish. Those against him will look to his age – he’ll be 10 years-old come March 18 and the last double-figure aged winner of the Champion Hurdle was Sea Pigeon (11) in 1981.
The Champion Chase is the most prestigious steeplechase run over the minimum distance of two miles throughout the jumps season. There are 12 fences to be jumped over just over one circuit of the Old Course. The first Champion Chase was run in 1959.
The Queen Mother Champion Chase could be another cracker in 2018 if all the main runners make the final line-up. Last year’s favourite – Douvan – flopped in the race and has been on the side lines for a long time since. However, this Willie Mullins-trained runner will miss the whole of the 2017/18 season after being found to be lame in December, so remains to be seen if we’ll ever see the old Douvan back on the track – watch this space! Looking at some of the trends – with horses aged from 5 to 10 years-old winning this race in the last 10 years there is no real age trend to note.
Altior, who was an impressive winner of the Arkle in 2017, would be another popular choice if running. He’s another that’s had a few injury scares since though, so it might be safer to wait till nearer the time to see if’ he’s going to run. Last year’s runner-up, Fox Norton, looks a solid option and is a horse that is rarely out of the frame, while the improving grey – Politologue – who landed the Tingle Creek in December. That race is often a good guide to the Champion Chase, while this improving will be looking to give trainer Paul Nicholls his sixth win in the race.
The World Hurdle is the rebranded Stayer’s Hurdle and is run over about 3 miles. It is the most important long-distance hurdle of the season and takes in almost two circuits of the New Course. The first World Hurdle was run in 2005 but its predecessor was first staged in 1912.
The 2018 World Hurdle has often been a race with little depth with the likes of Big Buck’s and Thistlecrack dominating the betting in recent years, but that’s all change this year. Unless a real superstar comes out of the woodwork we look set for one of the most open renewals in recent years. Last year’s winner Nichols Canyon will again be a popular choice as he looks to do what so many horses have in this race – run up a sequence of wins. But he’ll have stern opposition from last year’s second – Lil Rockerfeller and third – Unowhatimeanharry. Leading mare, Apple’s Jade could also have this as a target and if she does she’ll get a handy weight allowance which is sure to make her popular in the Stayers’ Hurdle betting market too.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the Blue Riband chase of the National Hunt season and the most prestigious. The race is the highlight of the National Hunt Festival. It is run over three miles, two and a half furlongs and 22 obstacles of the New Course. The first Cheltenham Gold Cup took place in 1819.
Plenty to get excited about when it comes to the 2018 Cheltenham Gold Cup too. Last year’s winner – Sizing John – has returned this season in cracking form and will have his defensive as a firm target. He won the race at just 7 years-old in 2017 so certainly has time on his side and if he can stay injury-free then there is every chance he’ll be a massive player in this race for many years. He’ll have some new challengers in 2018 though with the rapidly improving Bristol De Mai and last season’s RSA Chase winner Might Bite looking serious threats to his crown. Add in Native River, who was third in the race last season and the Willie Mullins-trained Yorkhill then we look set for a crackerjack of a race in 2018.
The handicap hurdle and chase races are amongst the most competitive horse races of the season. Winners are usually unexposed with something in hand at the weights. Each day of the Cheltenham Festival features a highly competitive handicap and festival live betting. These races are no less appealing for betting than the championship races.
The nature of handicaps is that there are rarely strong favourites and they are open betting heats and that is why many are sponsored by bookmakers. New regulations are restricting bookmaker sponsorship of racing. However, agreements are imminent with regards the betting industry contributing to racing from offshore bets.
The betting markets had not settled ahead of the entries and weights being announced but the following horses stand out in the ante post markets.
This race is one of the major staying handicap chases of the season and usually attracts a maximum field of runners. The race distance is 3 miles and 100 yards and 19 fences are jumped.
The major handicap on the second day of the meeting is one of the hardest to work out of the season as the field usually has 30 runners in a tight handicap. The Coral Cup is run over two miles five furlongs and 10 hurdles are jumped. In 2018 the Jessie Harrington-trained Supasundae won the race by 2 lengths at odds of 16/1.
Horses make the line-up for this race by running well in eight qualifiers throughout the season so the form is more exposed than for some of the other handicaps. The Pertemps Final is run over three miles and the race comprises 12 obstacles.
This race used to be the get out stakes as it was the last contest of the meeting and a final chance to win some money and beat the bookies. It is now the second race of the fourth day but still a handicap hurdle run over 2 miles and 1 furlong and eight obstacles
Handicaps are more likely to produce big priced winners than conditions races. The weights are framed so that in theory every horse has an equal chance. However, the true ability of a horse may not be fully exposed when being assessed by the handicapper.
The festival brings together the best horses in each age group and discipline. Every race at the meeting is unique, highly competitive and a championship contest in its own right. The meeting truly is the culmination of the season for the best hurdlers and chasers over the full range of distances. Here are the other notable races, one for each day.
This is the championship race for novice hurdlers over the minimum distance and is traditionally the first race of the festival so is popular for festival live betting. As the tapes go up there is huge roar from the crowd as they realise the four best days of racing anywhere in the world have begun. The team of Rich Ricci, Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have won 3 of the last 4 renewals and are sure to have a strong hand again in 2018.
This is the novices Gold Cup and the most prestigious chase of the season for inexperienced horse over fences. Several winners of the race have graduated to winning the Gold Cup in subsequent seasons including Bobs Worth, the winner in 2013, and Lord Windermere who won the race the following year. While Blaklion, who won this in 2016, has progressed onto being a leading Grand National horse that has already finished fourth in the Merseyside Marathon (2017).
Michael O’Leary is the founder and current owner of the budget airline Ryanair and finances the Gigginstown Stud ownership group in Ireland. Their race is the championship contest for experienced chasers at the intermediate distance of two miles and five furlongs. Last season the popular Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux won the race with a top display of jumping from the front.
The Foxhunters is the amateur riders Gold Cup and is run straight after that race over the same course and distance. Qualification is based on running well in hunter chases or point-to-point races and professional riders are not allowed to compete. In 2017 the race was won by the Paul Nicholls-trained Pacha Du Polder at a rewarding 16/1 for punters.
Willie Mullins is just about unbackable as he takes the strongest team to the Festival for any trainer since the War. He has the favourites in many of the graded races and in some cases has more than one horse prominent in the betting. With Mullins always having a lot of fancied runners on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival then this award is often over after day one or two of the festival.
Mullins had 8 winners in 2016 but was turned over in this market in 2017 with his Irish rival Gordon Elliott taking the crown with 6 winners. Yes, Mullins also trained 6 winners in 2017, but Elliott had more placed finishes to take the title.
Ruby Walsh rides most of the Mullins strong fancies so if the trainer has most wins the jockey will win the rider’s title at Cheltenham. He has been the top jockey at the meeting in 10 of the last 14 years – and again in 2017 after steering 4 horses home in first place. Only an injury that puts him on the sidelines early on will give any other jockeys a chance. Walsh could easily have a four timer on the first day of the festival and in the last three years that tally has been enough to be top jockey.
Cheltenham is a key week for bookmakers as the meeting attracts a wider audience than the regular betting public. The main battle ground is attracting new customers and one strategy is to offer a Cheltenham welcome bonus. Other promotions are designed to reward loyalty and at the time of writing the various bookmakers are starting to offer specials for the 2018 event. We will look to keep you updated with the best Cheltenham betting offers as they become available.
If you like our Cheltenham review and fancy chancing your hand at some of the races, then why not sign up for some of the below bonuses, available for those customers currently looking to open a new account. We have compiled some promotions out there that can be used at Cheltenham, so browse through and see which ones have the best Cheltenham betting odds and offers for you to play with.