Quite simply the biggest factor when it comes to assessing who may perform well at the Cheltenham Festival, is if they have been there and done it at the Festival before. It is a simple mantra, but one that can often be drastically overlooked. As form line after form line develops through a season, we can be seduced into following these, owing to our human instinct-driven tendency towards recency bias.
If you only heed one piece of advice in the upcoming three weeks before the big showdown in the Cotswolds, then let it be that viewing every race from the 2020 Cheltenham Festival is your chief goal. I assure you, if diligent, you won’t go far wrong with the clues that this will throw up.
If you want a little head start, then here are a few horses who won or placed last year, and who are overpriced currently for their respective assignments at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival: Abacadabras, Dame De Compagnie, Put The Kettle On, Aramax, Melon, Sire Du Berlais, The Storyteller, Minella Indo.
Trainers to hit form (chiefly Gordon Elliott):
A few trainers have been slightly quieter than can sometimes be the case over the last few months – Colin Tizzard, Nicky Henderson and Gordon Elliott are the three that most instantly spring to mind.
Of these three, Henderson and Elliott are almost hell-bent on peaking their horses for the Cheltenham Festival, and will do so again. The Tizzard stable have had one or two underlying issues of late, and could spring a few surprises also.
But I do feel it will be very much worth backing Gordon Elliott to have an outstanding Festival again. Over Christmas, there were one or two horses of his that underperformed, and the signs in the last few weeks have been hugely encouraging – strongly suggesting that a blitz at the Festival is in the offing yet again.
It is not too simplistic to suggest that his main aims are twofold – to win as many Cheltenham Festival races each season, and to win the Irish trainers championship. Given the rather large spectre of Willie Mullins looms over the second of these currently, it will be paramount in Elliott’s mind to achieve the former.
On the flip side, far from suggesting that you should be taking on Willie Mullins-trained hotpots, but it would be a quite simply phenomenal achievement for Mullins to back up his performance at the Dublin Racing Festival. It would hard to envisage a lot of horses improving again…tread carefully with those short-priced favourites.
The 2021 Cheltenham Festival could be a perfect storm when it comes to taking advantage of the offers laid out by the major bookmaking firms. The reasons for this are threefold.
Firstly, because they do it every year!
Secondly, due to the likelihood of high street betting shops remaining closed due to restrictions, online betting will be the only source of bookmaker income for the 2021 Festival.
And thirdly, with the upcoming government gambling review casting a large and worrying shadow over the prospect of betting on the sport being the same ever again, bookmakers will want to use the opportunity of one of the biggest betting showcases in the whole world to stock up their profits before a potential barren spell.
Open as many accounts as you can, keep an eye out for offers, free bets, extra place terms, and don’t presume that if you have been restricted on an online account, that this will still be the case for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival.
If you are a keen punter, it might just be an opportunity to have a fair battle with the old foe!
Get up early, or stay up late!
I’m not suggesting that given the fact that we can’t attend the four-day jamboree, and bask in the on and off course revelry, that we somehow make up for it by recreating the social side at home. But more so, that to take advantage of the best prices, place terms and offers, often this is best done way before any on course market opens up.
History has dictated that the night before and early in the morning on the day of racing is much the best time to get the best prices, place terms and other offers available.
Clear you schedule for the week, pack the kids off to school with a smile, and get your betting plan sorted early. Then sit back and enjoy the build-up, while letting the big hitters play at the skimpier margins offered late on.
Don’t be obvious:
This sounds a little ambiguous, but let me explain. You don’t need to back one horse in every Festival race, if you don’t have a particularly strong opinion on a race then that’s fine. Be happy to opt for a watching brief.
So too, if you have two, three, or even four horses in the same race who you think are likely to run well and the maths works out from a price and place perspective, then don’t be put off from backing them all. Supporting four horses in a big field handicap, when the place terms are in your favour, can be a good way of making a profit – you may only need one or two to place to chisel that profit, and if you back the winner and a couple place, then you’ll be in clover.
Also, utilise the Tote markets – placepots, exactas and trifectas are great value options to obtain a big return for a small stake. And again, don’t be obvious with your selections. For instance, don’t put all the favourites in a placepot, as if it that does occur, every other punter will have done similar and the return you get will be minimal. Identify some vulnerable favourites, and look to take them on in these pool bets.