I love horse racing. I always have and I always will. Yes, most of the time it’s a -EV prospect, but I don’t just bet for the wins, I love the whole package. And nothing sums up that idea more than the Cheltenham Festival. For those that don’t know, the Cheltenham Festival is held in March and is the highlight of the British National Hunt (jumps racing) calendar. All the best horses get aimed at at least one races over the four days of the festival and I love it. I love seeing all the best horses run. I love the competition of all the top best horses competing against each other. And I love the whole tradition of it. But, yeah, because I can bet on up to 26 races in the space of four days, I’m even happier.
And remember – when you’re alone, and life is making you lonely….
(I’ve listened to that song WAY too much lately)
There are 4 championship races, one every day and they’re the ones with the top horses that you’ve watched all year. The rest are a mix of novice races and big handicaps. I’m not really a fan of the handicap races at the Cheltenham Festival, simply because the fields are so big and, in all honesty, anything can and will win those races, especially if a stable wants to pull a fast one and give the staff their Christmas bonus 3 months late. So, I like the championship races simply because I know what I’m going to get from a horse, I don’t have to worry about the weight it’s carrying and I know every horse in that race will be trying to win. I also like the novice races, as I tend to follow some of the younger horses on the scene and you can usually tell when one is about to become a superstar.
Now, I said I can bet on all 26 races – and I probably will – but I’m only going to be having five serious bets, as there’s only five horses I truly have a great feeling about. The rest is just more for an enjoyment factor – you can’t watch the races at the Cheltenham Festival without having at least a small bet! Hell, imagine if you had a slightly inkling for one and it won at 20-1! How sick would you be? So, I always have a bet, even if it is only a small one. A win’s a win, right?
But what are my five top picks? Well, since I’m a nice guy, I thought I’d share them. Plus, I’ve backed them already, $100 on each bet, so I don’t have to worry about you guys ruining the price of them before the race actually starts!
(Note: Now that Cheltenham is over, I have updated this with our results)
Irish Independent Arkle:
This is the first BIG race of the Cheltenham Festival, where the top novices of 2 miles of fences come together. Some greats have won the race in the past and I’ve not had that much luck with the race. Still, you have to keep trying and, like I say, I like novice races and there’s one I’ve been following all season that I think is going to run a big race: Mad Max. I’ve followed the horse for a few years, from his start in bumpers and, as he’s such a big horse, I’ve always felt he would do a lot better over fences than he did over hurdles. Now, the fact he was only beaten once over hurdles sums up how good he is. His trainer loves him and I love him, too. 25/1 is far too big and I honestly think he’s got the beating of the rest of the field. There are the obvious dangers at the front of the market, but I want some value and I have it with Mad Max.
Result: Loss. -$100
This race has such a great tradition and it was this race where one of my favorite/least favorite horses gave me a Cheltenham Festival memory I’ll never forget. Harchibald, who I had a love/hate relationship with during his entire career, comes over the last with a lot of running left in him, looking like he’s going to be the winner. I’ve got quite a substantial wager on him to win this, as I’ve followed him all season, watched him in the Fighting Fifth and KNEW he would win. So, as he approaches the leader, looking, for all intents and purposes, like he’s going to win this easily, he idles and decides not to overtake Hardy Eustace. Cue a massive amount of shouting from me and everyone watching the race with me having a bit of a laugh as they collect their winnings.
This year, while I’m not as confident, I’m going with Binocular. Yes, the horse hasn’t had the greatest build-up and has been beaten by a lot of this field, but I think those races were falsely run, especially at Newcastle. He ran a great race in defeat last year, has the top jockey on-board and you have to remember that course form is crucial at Cheltenham. The top hurdlers this year are nothing special and I think if Binocular can come back to some sort of form like he’s shown in the past, he’ll win and win comfortably. The only worry is the fact they had more or less pulled him out last month. Still, at around 8/1, he’s a great price if he’s fit and I’m on.
Result: Win. +$800
Queen Mother Champion Chase:
The race where Moscow Flyer, Azertyuiop and Well Chief made their names. Moscow Flyer was my favorite horse, so I have a soft spot for this race. Well, apart from being the race where I knew Moscow Flyer was a spent force. Always sad to see that happen, but now we have a new crop of 2 mile chasers and they’re led by the incredible Master Minded. However, I have to question how good he’s been this season. He lost last time out at Cheltenham to Well Chief and I want to take him on again. Twist Magic is the one for me. He’s from the same stable (Paul Nicholls’ stable) and I think the trainer will have one of them at peak condition, I just hope it’s Twist Magic. He’s been in better form this season than he was last year and put in some great performances. His price of around 6-1, 7-1 is good enough for me.
Result: Loss. -$100
A new-ish race, but a good one. It’s not like all the “filler” handicaps they put in when they extended the Cheltenham Festival to four days. It’s the race for horses now quick enough for the Queen Mother Chase, but without the stamina for the Gold Cup. It’s usually a classy field and hard to split the main protagonists on paper. To me, the favorite, Poquelin, is a glorified handicapper and I want to take him on. Well, with what? Simple. Alberta’s Run. I had a nice win on Alberta’s Run last year, so I know he has the course form I’m looking for. I also know he goes well at this time of the year and, again, he has the Champion Jockey aboard, so I know I’m getting a good ride from him. Around 16/1, I’m having some of that, especially as the favorite is so short in such an open race. I’d also be worried if Deep Purple came looming behind, but I think Alberta’s Run will do the business for us.
Result: Win. +$1600
Cheltenham Gold Cup:
Kauto Star versus Denman? Kauto Star versus the field? Well, looking at the evidence of this season, probably. However, I think it’s time for a changing of the guard and I’m looking to Ireland for this and another horse with course form that comes good at this time of the year. Cooldine is my choice, although I’d be wanting a slightly bigger price than the 12/1 I got. Still, I’m happy with my selection, as I think McCoy and Walsh will be too busy watching each other that Cooldine can sneak in and cause an upset. It’s the most exciting race of the year for me and, whatever wins, I’m sure it’ll be a great race, I just hope it’s trained by Willie Mullins.
Result: Loss. -$100
So, there’s my 5 top selections for the Cheltenham Festival. I always try to go for a bit value in my picks, as short-priced favorites at Cheltenham tend not to have a great history. Plus, a big priced winner always makes me feel better than a short priced winner.
So, use my picks and go out and make a fortune.
Overall Results: We had an excellent Cheltenham Festival when it comes to betting, with a profit of $2100. Sadly the winnings aren’t enough to make up for the fact that Cheltenham is over 🙁 Next year can’t come soon enough.