November is the beginning of the National Hunt season in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and France.  In jump racing, all roads lead to the Cheltenham Festival, staged annually in March.  The 2018 renewal is scheduled for March 13-16 at the scenic Cheltenham Race Course, located about 88 miles from London.

Hundreds of million British pounds will be wagered on 28 races, ranging from six-figure bets placed by wealthy owners and legendary gamblers to small wagers from neophytes and jump-racing enthusiasts.   Free bets and betting offers on the 2018 Cheltenham Festival are available from numerous reputable and fully licensed online sportsbooks, who are eager to attract new customers and get a piece of the Cheltenham betting bonanza.

Much of the wagering turnover on the 28-race Cheltenham Festival will come via ante-post or futures bets.  In fact, Cheltenham is famed for ante-post betting, as most serious jump-race aficionados play futures.

Regardless of whether it’s a “bumper” (a flat race for jumpers) winner spotted at a mid-week Fontwell National Hunt, or a Unibet Champion Hurdle trial race winner, most National Hunt fans spot some kind of value when it comes to long-range Cheltenham betting and act on their intuition.  Established Champion Hurdle trials include the StanJames.com Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, the Greatwood Hurdle at Cheltenham, the Fighting Fifth at Newcastle, and the StanJames.com International, also at Cheltenham.

Over the past decade, Irish-trained winners have increasingly been a presence at Cheltenham.  To illustrate, in 2017, Irish trainers dominated the Festival week and ended the four-day racing extravaganza with a record 19 winners, bettering 2016’s previous “best ever” figure of 15.  Remarkably, Irish trainers won two-thirds of the races carded.

In addition, the “leading trainer” award has gone to Irish handlers in each of the past five years.  In 2017, Gordon Elliott was leading trainer with six winners and from 2013-2016, Willie Mullins had a total of 24 winners.  To make matters worse for the rival British jump-racing contingent, Irish-based jockeys have won the last ten “top jockey” titles; Ruby Walsh nine times and Barry Geraghty once.

The biggest ante-post betting minefield is deciphering which races the Irish-trained equine stars will ultimately run in.  For example, though Willie Mullins has had the top five horses in the Champion Hurdle ante-post betting market, a few may be re-routed to lesser races like the Stayers Hurdle or Mares Hurdle.

In 2018, Mullins and Susannah Ricci, the trainer and owner respectively of both the talented Vroum Vroum Mag (an 8-year-old mare and winner of 12 of 15 lifetime starts) and Faugheen (a 9-year-old gelding nicknamed “the machine” with a career record of 13 wins from 14 starts) may have a difficult choice to make.  Their mare is talented enough to contest the 2 mile and 1/2 furlong Champion Hurdle race on Tuesday of the Festival, but the return of Faugheen on November 19th from nearly two years on the sidelines to win Punchestown’s Morgiana Hurdle complicates matters.  Mullins’ decision likely depends on how Faugheen runs in a 2 1/2 mile race at Fairyhouse on December 3rd and how he is training in the weeks approaching the Cheltenham Festival.

To assist bettors with making choices, online bookmakers have come up with some new future-betting initiatives such as a horse to “win any race at the Festival.”  On the basis that trainers opt to run their horses in the race where they have the best possible chance of winning, these new betting opportunities have been embraced by serious bettors.

The Cheltenham Festival is a social event that jump-racing fans, bettors, and people just looking to be part of a fun experience look forward to every year, much like Kentucky Derby week in America.

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