The Cheltenham festival – an orgy of equine and training talent, four days of sheer excitement, and the battleground for an Anglo-Irish rivalry. Held in March each year, Cheltenham represents the pinnacle of National Hunt horse racing, bringing together superstars of different disciplines and distances, to discover who can claim bragging rights as the best in their respective division.
The vast majority of trainers will campaign their runners throughout the year, with ‘the festival’ as their ultimate aim, and horses arrive in tiptop physical condition, ready to perform. The Grand National may be the most well known meeting amongst the general public, but Cheltenham is one for the purists and it generates more turnover than any other racing event.
Part of the excitement of the Cheltenham festival is created by the course configuration. Prestbury Park is unique in nature, with an undulating track that also features a long and stiff uphill finish. Horses need to be not only nimble on their feet and have good balance to handle the dips and rises, but they also need to be laden with stamina to maintain a gallop to the finishing line. Many a race has changed dramatically in complexion after the last hurdle or fence, with horses in front wilting towards the post, collared by the strong finishers and in the process creating an exhilarating spectacle.
The meeting starts on Tuesday, with the highlight the Champion Hurdle. This race pits the elite of the 2mile hurdling division against each other and requires speed, stamina and slick jumping – any flaws in hurdling technique see horses left behind. The feature of day two is the Queen Mother Champion Chase, a chase run over 2miles. For many, this is the race of the week, and has produced superstars in recent years such as Moscow Flyer and Master Minded. Day three plays host to the World Hurdle, the staying event for hurdlers run over 3miles. This is somewhat of a specialist distance for hurdlers and since the turn of the millennium, the race has thrown up repeat winners such as Baracouda, Inglis Drever and most notably Big Bucks. The meeting is brought to a crescendo on Friday with the Cheltenham Gold Cup – a 3mile2f chase, seen by many as the pinnacle for any steeplechaser. Superstars Kauto Star and Denman are just two of the names who fill the illustrious list of Gold Cup winners.
A benefit of the Cheltenham festival for new punters and seasoned gamblers alike, is the ridiculously generous promotions that the bookmakers are compelled to offer. As a huge betting week with competitive fields containing horses that are all trying their best, the bookmakers see Cheltenham as an opportunity to retain current clientele and attract new business. Those who fail to produce an attractive concession fall by the wayside, as nowadays punters are spoilt for choice as to who to bet with. Faller refunds, each way the first 5 home and treble the odds for the winner concessions are not uncommon and here at Sports Betting Online, we have links to all of the major firms who produce these enticing promotions.
Many punters like to get their Cheltenham bets on early, betting into the ante-post market. This can be a good strategy for the outsiders, unconsidered by most bettors. However, for those wishing to back some of the more fancied runners, it can be best to wait until just before week of the festival. Why? Firstly most firms will offer no runner no bet (nrnb) several days out from the start of the meeting, meaning that customers will get their money back if their bet is a non-runner. Secondly, due to the aforementioned competitiveness of the bookmakers on festival week, the prices on offer are very generous.
For most horse racing aficionados, the countdown to the Cheltenham festival begins as soon as the last race finishes on the Friday. To get an edge on this year’s festival, visit our Cheltenham tips page, where there will be expert selections from our resident team of tipsters.