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.


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.


Some people spend time thinking about how to win a big race. Some dream bigger. They think about how to deliver a bright future for the Thoroughbred breed.

The Breeders’ Cup cancelled its ban of race-day drugs and some liked the decision, thinking it might help them win a race. Others felt betrayed and one man resigned. That man, Oliver Tait, works for Darley, the racing operation of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Sheikh Mohammed dreams big. A part of his dream is playing out this month in Dubai on a scale only a country ruler can implement. But his role in educating newcomers and supporting Thoroughbred needs around the world is well known and respected.

Mr. Tait said he resigned because Sheikh Mohammed wants the sport to be enjoyed and admired by a new generation of participants and enthusiasts. He noted other sports have distanced themselves from drugs.

The Breeders’ Cup attempt to go drug-free was not going to change U.S. racing. It would be like the NFL saying the Super Bowl will be drug-free, but not the games during the season and the playoffs.

Is the drug image here a barrier for current and future generations, or is it just one symptom of the real problem in U.S. racing?

The real problem is the lack of a talent-based structure, where like-minded stakeholders who own the talent control a top portion of the sport.

There are few stakeholders like Sheikh Mohammed. He has more skin in the game than anyone. In U.S. racing, Frank Stronach probably has the most integrated investment. Then around the world come major players like John Magnier, the Aga Khan, Terry Yoshida, and Khalid Abdullah.

These individuals and more share a vested interest in seeing racing enjoyed and admired by a new generation of participants and enthusiasts. They agree to the restrictions necessary for the sport to have credibility.

Sheikh Mohammed can do well in Europe, Dubai, Australia and Japan without U.S. racing and breeding. But his dream for the future includes the world’s largest market, just like every worldwide enterprise has a U.S. strategy.

So, what are these leading stakeholders in an international sport to do with a country that is not only damaging the image of their game, but might also be hurting the future of the breed?

It is easy to do nothing. It wasn’t easy for Sheikh Mohammed to build Meydan in Dubai, or for the Aga Khan to save Chantilly. These are not casual stakeholders. But I doubt they have ever considered U.S. racing a problem they could help solve.

U.S. racing has now exhausted the strategies available under the current track-based structure. Every organization has tried and none can overcome it. Not the Jockey Club, not TOBA, not RCI, and finally not the Breeders’ Cup. It is not just drug policy, every aspect of the game will benefit from the introduction of a new, talent-based structure.

The same U.S. laws that prohibit control of all Thoroughbred racing also allow like-minded stakeholders to join together and form a racing program within the sport. That’s how Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NBA are able to take restrictive actions to benefit their brand, because their brand is the public face that advances the entire sport.

Sport has one indispensable element—talent. It is movable and it is the legal basis for all sports contracts. It doesn’t matter where the talent comes from, the entity that organizes, packages and presents the talent can change and grow the image of a sport quickly.

Ironically, the one country damaging the international sport is also the only country where racehorse owners can introduce their own racing program. A new brand can become a beacon that shines a refreshing light on the sport and assures common international rules to benefit the Thoroughbred breed. The infrastructure is in place and ready to partner with talent-based stakeholders committed for the long run.

How is a talent-based structure different from the current track-based structure? Facility owners do not make rules in any successful sport. They do not determine how to package, present, and promote the sport. The best example for racing is the PGA Tour, where the talent agrees to rules, contracts with the golf course owners, then packages, presents and promotes their brand of golf. It works.

Every sport has had to wait until strong individuals joined together and defined a talent-based structure for the highest level of each sport. That is the segment within each sport the public enjoys and admires.

Perhaps less than 200 individuals worldwide have the means and ability to put aside rivalries and join together for the future of the breed. Right now, the country with the most problems, the most need and the most potential to elevate racing internationally is the U.S.

Each country, except the U.S., has a structure to protect racing within its own borders, but as our problems here illuminate, we are missing an overall authority to protect the Thoroughbred breed across borders. Who has the worldwide plan for the Thoroughbred breed? There is no international Jockey Club, just individual countries.

There is a body called the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities (IFHA), which helps harmonize racing rules to allow owners to cross borders. It does a fine job, but it is not a modern sport structure.

Even with IFHA agreements on rules, each country is an island. The mix of Jockey Clubs and government agencies provide the public face of racing and breeding. However, in each country strong individuals are the backbone and real power.

No matter how powerful, racehorse owners worldwide move to the whims of those who control racing events in each country. Some owners leverage these event organizers, but in no country do the racehorse owners call the shots in the same way the talent in other sports protect, monetize, and expand their brand.

It is time for racehorse owners, both domestic and international, to step into direct involvement in order to protect and develop the sport and the breed. That is the void in our international game.

I won’t suggest now how a new structure be formed or how it would operate as a business. I hope this piece encourages serious rivals to see the opportunity and need to join together for the breed.

There is every reason to believe that in the world’s best market, a new brand of racing can be established quickly and communicate its benefits as fast as possible.

Copyright © 2013 Fred A. Pope

Mr. Pope can be reached at