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Five top tips for betting on the Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us, and with the top-class meeting comes plenty of opportunities for horse racing fans to have a wager. 

The annual punter versus bookmaker battle which takes place over twenty eight races across the four days is always fiercely contested, and it can be easy to be sucked up by the atmosphere to a point where financial perspective is sometimes lost. 

It is therefore important that punters develop a strategy with which they can hopefully turn over some profit while also minimizing potential losses. While there are many approaches to doing this, here are five top tips for betting on the Cheltenham Festival which hopefully will help punters to find a few winners while keeping losses to a minimum, and maximizing their enjoyment of the ‘greatest show on turf’.

Be sure to check out bookmakers’ offers

A key tip in maximizing punters’ chances is to take advantage of the myriad of bookmakers’ offers and specials that invariably pop up in the days leading up to the Cheltenham Festival, and even from day-to-day during the Festival itself.

From free bets and enhanced odds to refunds if a horse falls or if finishing runner-up, different bookmakers offer a wide array of betting specials designed to draw in the punter; if used wisely, these free bets and specials can really make a big difference to whether the punter turns a profit or not.

Bookmakers are often keen to get punters’ business early when it comes to the Cheltenham Festival, often giving up huge concessions on the opening race - the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – such as enhanced odds on the favourite, or a refund of losing bets if the favourite wins in the hope that the punter stays loyal to the bookmaker throughout not only the four days, and also beyond the Festival.

But with so many offers available, it can pay to spread the wealth around a few bookmakers rather than concentrate on one bookmaker throughout the four days. Remember, every bookmaker will have their own offers so it can pay for punters to compare each one’s offering daily to make sure they are getting the best offers.
Be aware of previous Festival form

Competing at the Cheltenham Festival can be a gruelling experience for horses, so having previous Festival form can often be a big bonus when it comes to assessing a horse’s chance.

While it isn’t a hard and fast rule, horses which have performed well in previous Festivals may well have been targeted at the latest renewal, and if they have run well previously they may well do so again back at Cheltenham regardless of their earlier form.

This can sometimes throw up big-priced winners as a result, especially in competitive handicaps such as the Coral Cup or the Ultima Chase.

Treat the ‘hype’ with caution

Every year at the Festival there is talk of ‘bankers’ and ‘good things’; but any seasoned punter will attest that there is no such thing!

Of course, each season throws up some potential superstars who could well go on to great things; but the Cheltenham Festival is like nothing they’ll have experienced before, whether they’ve won a lowly handicap at Plumpton or a Grade One at Leopardstown or anything inbetween. 

Many of the ‘hype’ horses usually come from a handful of top yards and usually belong to top owners. While they may have posted impressive previous runs, the experience they’ll face at Cheltenham is like no other; while they could well win again, punters are best advised to treat the hype with caution as it can often lead to artificially low prices which represent little value.

Play the Placepot/Jackpot

While many punters will bet singles race-to-race at the Festival, using the Placepot and Jackpot can often yield big returns for a correct bet, and the beauty of these types of bets is their cost. 

Placepots and Jackpots needn’t be expensive with unit stakes starting from just ten pence per line, and the opportunity to permutate several selections into a potentially winning bet for relatively small outlay has made these bets hugely popular.

In a Placepot, punters need only select horses to finish in the frame in each of the first six races – they don’t have to win – and the more horses they get in the frame, the higher their potential returns. 

Jackpots are similar, but to scoop the big win punters need to find all six winners which can be a tough ask at the Festival! But if successful, the returns can be massive compared to the outlay, and a Placepot on the day’s action is always advisable.

Back Non-runner, No Bet

If dabbling in the ante-post market, make sure that the bookmaker has Non-runner, No Bet in place in order to ensure that if a horse doesn’t run in a race for whatever reason come post-time, the punter doesn’t lose out.

With days still to go, many trainers will have yet to finalise the intended Festival targets of many of their runners; will it be the Supreme or the Neptune, the Arkle or the JLT? These are questions that many punters ask, and most trainers play their cards very close to their chests when it comes to deciding where their stars will run.

Using Non-runner, No Bet ensures that if a horse doesn’t run in a specific race then the punter gets their money back. Be aware that not every bookmaker offers such a concession, or starts offering NRNB at different times; most that do tend to shave a point or two off the ante-post price, but it can be worth taking the slightly lower price with the concession attached rather than the bigger odds with no safety net attached that NRNB provides.

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Five top tips for betting on the Cheltenham Festival

The Cheltenham Festival is almost upon us, and with the top-class meeting comes plenty of opportunities for horse racing fans to have a wager.

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