CHELTENHAM 2020 RACES

For reputations, racing honors and more than $5.9 million in prize money, the Cheltenham Festival will once again bring together most of the biggest names in European jump racing.  Set to take place from March 10-13, 2020, the event is already creating headlines as has been its tradition since 1860. Bettors are warming up for what could turn out to be the best moments of their lives and bookmakers are on the other side, ready to profit from the former’s losses.

For those who can make their way to the Cheltenham Festival to bear witness first hand, advance tickets are selling from $52 and up (until 10:59 a.m. on January 31).  Advance group tickets are also available and are priced from $49.  Last-minute gate tickets will retail from around $65.

Gates to the event will open at 10:30 a.m on March 10th to allow fans to settle in for the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race, which will kick-off the Festival. The race goes off at 1:30 p.m. and Abacadacras appears to be the favorite with odds of 4/1 at Betfair.  Fiddlerontheroof is another choice for the race having 8/1 odds at William Hill. 

Last year’s event saw some new races included in the program.  This year, there has been an addition of “The Park,” where continuous live music and entertainment will be provided each race day.  The fan-friendly venue will contain an assortment of bars showing the races live, and at 4:30 p.m. patrons can listen to a DJ set for 90 minutes.

Bettors trying to beat the bookies at their game, may be attracted to informative links like https://www.freebets.co.uk/cheltenham-festival-free-bets/.  Some of the latest offers in the market include free bets of up to $33 for every $13 placed at Boylesports.  With Bet365, a bettor can claim up to $131 by wagering on Cheltenham.  

With the excitement that the Cheltenham Festival brings, one would expect fans to applaud the possible expansion to a fifth day of racing.  However, this idea was not popular when the Festival’s new chairman discussed the idea on ITV.  A poll conducted on Twitter yielded lower than 20% votes of those in favor of adding a fifth day.  The main fear expressed was that the intensity of the Festival would be diluted as champions compete with inferior opponents brought in to fill races.

Over the years, there have been more odds-on favorites as a result of increasing the number of days of competition.  Fans’ concerns are therefore not misplaced as they can be backed by statistics.  For instance, in 60 races held in 2002 thru 2004, there were no odds-on favorites in 2002 and 2003 and only three in 2004, or 5% of all races.  By contrast, the last three years have produced 11 odds-on favorites over 84 races, a rate of about 13%.  

This tends to reduce the appeal of the Festival. The only way the negative effects of an additional day can be compensated for is by finding more talented and competitive horses. The opposition of the idea is thus not just resistance to change.

SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS FOR THE FAMED CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL

Long before the term Brexit had entered the lexicon and before the birth of the Euro, the importance of the Cheltenham Festival in England was easy to gauge. That’s because the value of the Irish punt would plunge in the days before the fabled race meeting would get underway.

Avid Irish racegoers would buy so much sterling that the value of their own currency would fall, noticeably, as thousands of jumps racing fans would make their annual pilgrimage to Prestbury Park with pockets bulging with British sterling.

In 2019, the Cheltenham Festival is bigger than ever; it consists of four full days of racing and 28 individual races run from March 12 through March 15. But this success story is not just based on the number of races and prize-money, which now surpasses £4.5 million. In 2019, the Cheltenham Festival gates will see a footfall of over 250,000 people over the four days of racing. The final day, Gold Cup day, will be the most popular.

In each of the past six years, it has been an Irish trainer who has claimed the distinction of “leading trainer” and both 2017 and 2018 saw more Irish-trained winners at the festival than domestically handled runners. Even the leading jockey has been Irish for the past 11 years.

These facts help when identifying the best Cheltenham betting angles. If a horse is Irish trained, it needs to be taken with the utmost seriousness, as Ireland was responsible for fewer than 30% of all runners in the past two years but more than 60% of the winners in 2018 and nearly 68% in 2017.

The Cheltenham featured races for each day are: Gold Cup on Friday, Champion Chase on Tuesday, Champion Hurdle on Wednesday, and Stayers Hurdle on Thursday. And while French trainer Francois Douman staked his claim to many of these showcase races in the late ’90s and early 21st century, all Festival races have become a straight Ireland vs UK showdown in the past two decades.

Most Cheltenham betting tips & previews 2019 will headline one horse, Altior, as the favorite for this year’s meeting. Handled by champion trainer Nicky Henderson,  Altior won all five of his hurdle races and is also unbeaten in all 12 of his chase starts. As he has swept all before him and beaten every conceivable rival, unsurprisingly the 9-year-old is top-priced 4/9 to win the Champion Chase for a second consecutive season.

Another home-trained horse, Buveur d’Air, is also attempting to retain his crown in 2019. That being the Champion Hurdle and he too is favorite to win for Nicky Henderson. As Paisley Park is favorite for Emma Lavelle in the Stayers Hurdle, all is looking good for the British home defense in 2019, albeit the online bookmakers disagree and their betting odds predict that Ireland will be the most successful nation at Cheltenham for a third consecutive year.

With a strong economy, Cheltenham 2019 looks set to surpass all previous records in terms of betting turnover, attendance, and even television viewership, thanks, in part, to ITV Racing which has injected fresh life into racing since it regained broadcast rights of the sport in January 2017.

LEAD UP TO CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL IS UNDERWAY

For horse racing fans domiciled outside of the United Kingdom and Ireland, it can be difficult to appreciate how the focus of British racing flips in autumn.  Gone are the long, intoxicating summer days at Ascot and Epsom.  Memories of the Derby and the Oaks slip away, and familiar names like O’Brien, Godolphin, and Coolmore are not heard as often.

Attention turns to the much different ambiance of the National Hunt season; cold, windy nights in December with sodden, muddy tracks.  It’s a world away from the pomp and ceremony of the summer.  But many fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

There is no official date for the start of the National Hunt season, usually having some cross-over with the flat season in October, then building up steam until the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National in mid-spring.  The latter event is, of course, one of the world’s great handicap races, steeped in history and prestige.  However, it is the Cheltenham Festival that fans tend to focus on at this stage of the year, and National Hunt trainers and jockeys prepare for the Festival as if it were their Super Bowl.

Bettors, of course, are among those making plans for the Festival and, even at this early stage, they can get their hands on the Cheltenham 2019 best betting offers, such as free bets and other promos, as bookmakers look to drum up some early interest. Markets are available for all 28 races, and plenty of ante-post bets are made to potentially get some extra value early in the season.

What horses, then, are looking like they offer some decent value for a long-term bet?  Already, there is some sentiment for Malone Road–a horse trained by Gordon Elliot–who was impressive in his debut at Down Royal last week.  He is being pointed toward the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (the opening race of the Festival) with tempting odds of 20/1.

Elsewhere, the brilliant Kalashnikov is seen as a big hope for the Arkle Chase.  Currently given odds of 7/1 from Betfair, the runner up of last year’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle might be better suited to chasing. Those odds will likely tumble if he picks up a couple of wins over the coming months.

The most prestigious race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, has several candidates right at the top of the odds. Might Bite is tied with Presenting Percy at 6/1, with last year’s winner, Native River, just behind at 7/1.  A favorite may emerge as the season develops and more past-performance data become available.

While there are advantages of making a long-term bet, there are also downsides.  Some of the early favorites for the big races, Buveur D’Air (3/1, Champions Hurdle), Altior (7/4, Champion Chase), and the almost-legendary Faugheen (6/1, World Hurdle), are all much too short with five months between now and the Festival.  Moreover, bookmakers are sometimes slow to remove horses from the market that are unlikely to run at the Festival.  For example, Douvan, seems to be out for the season but is still priced as the 12/1 third favorite for the Champion Chase.

Yet if some of those favorites should be avoided, the opposite is true for a number of the outsiders:  Al Boum Photo (33/1, Gold Cup), Meep Meep (20/1 Mares’ Novice Hurdle), Limini (20/1 World Hurdle) and God’s Own (50/1, Champion Chase) could all look like great value a few months from now.  A bettor should always make sure the betting company will return the wager (NRNB) if the horse does not line up for the race.