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You can still make money betting on the week’s bankers

Martin Castilla            No comments            Nov, 5

Your complete guide to the Festival

The bookmakers described last year’s Cheltenham Festival as their worst ever after a host of fancied horses won, but there are reasons to believe that punters could again come out on top this week.

Cheltenham was something of a minefield for punters in years gone by but since the meeting was extended to four days in 2005 — and more races were added — the tide has turned and it is now regularly a meeting where the fancied runners dominate.

The reason is that the extra races that have been put on have diluted the quality, making it possible, in many cases, for the best horses to avoid each other.

Last year, 15 of the 28 races were won by one of the first two in the betting, while there was little respite elsewhere for the bookmakers with just one winner sent off at bigger than 16-1 all week and that came in the very last race, when Solar Impulse scored at 28-1.

When those facts are added to the fierce competition between bookmakers to attract new customers, resulting in better prices and generous concessions, then this should be a good time to be a punter.

The bookmakers will be a little ahead before the meeting gets under way, with ante-post gamblers having been hit by a series of high-profile non-runners, but in truth the figures bet in advance of the meeting are a tiny fraction of what will change hands over the next four days.

So what are the bankers of the week? Limini looks rock solid in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle today and would surely be odds-on if this were a regular meeting. Yet today she can be backed at 13-8.

Altior will be mightily tough to beat in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy — and 1-3 is not unreasonable — but this looks one for the high rollers, as does the brilliant Douvan at 1-4 for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase tomorrow. Let us hope that both return to the Festival next year to lock horns in the Champion Chase, and that neither is tempted by a softer target.

Yorkhill has had his jumping problems but is a cut above his rivals in the JLT Novices’ Chase on Thursday and you’re basically being offered 11-8 that he jumps round. He is something of a tearaway but he is also athletic and, provided Ruby Walsh can get him to relax, he ought to win with ease.

Unowhatimeanharry looks short enough at first glance at 5-4 in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle that same day but opposition is thin on the ground, while 11-8 chance, Let’s Dance, also looks to have sound prospects in the Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle.

The JCB Triumph Hurdle that opens Friday’s card has another warm favourite in Defi Du Seuil, but he has plenty of opposition and 7-4 looks tight. Indeed, the final day is the most competitive, with the shortest-priced runner on the card being On The Fringe, at 11-8, in the St James’s Place Foxhunter Chase. He has won that race for the past two years but, now age 12, could find some younger rivals tougher to beat.

The defection of ante-post favourite Thistlecrack from the Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup has helped to make that contest more open, although Thistlecrack’s trainer, Colin Tizzard, still has the first two in the market in Native River and Cue Card. It is possible to pick holes in the claims of all of the market leaders, though, and if there is to be a real upset in one of the feature races this week, the Gold Cup appears the most likely.

Golden rules for having a bet

Always take a price
Most bookmakers offer a “best odds guaranteed” concession, which means that if you take 3-1 and the starting price is 5-1, you get paid out at the bigger price. Punters can only benefit from this. If you do not have an online account with a reputable betting firm, see what incentives they are offering — this is the best week of the year to do so.

Place your bets early
In many cases the bookmakers will treat some of the fancied runners as loss leaders and will advertise eye-catching prices to draw in punters. Those prices will not last all day.

The line-up: all 28 races

TODAY
1.30
Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (2m 87yd)
2.10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (1m 7f 199yd)
2.50 Ultima Handicap Chase (3m 1f)
3.30 Stan James Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (2m 87yd)
4.10 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (2m 3f 200yd)
4.50 JT McNamara National Hunt Challenge Cup Novices’ Chase (Amateur riders: 3m 7f 170yd)
5.30 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (2m 4f 78yd)

TOMORROW
1.30
Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (2m 5f 26yd)
2.10 RSA Novices’ Chase (3m 80yd)
2.50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (2m 5f 26yd)
3.30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (1m 7f 199yd)
4.10 Glenfarclas Cross Country Chase (3m 6f 37yd)
4.50 Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (2m 87yd)
5.30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (2m 87yd)

THURSDAY
1.30
JLT Novices’ Chase (2m 3f 198yd)
2.10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (2m 7f 213yd)
2.50 Ryanair Chase (2m 4f 166yd)
3.30 Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle (2m 7f 213yd)
4.10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (2m 5f)
4.50 Trull House Stud Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (2m 179yd)
5.30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Amateur riders: 3m 2f)

FRIDAY
1.30
JCB Triumph Hurdle (2m 179yd)
2.10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (2m 179yd)
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (2m 7f 213yd)
3.30 Timico Gold Cup (3m 2f 70yd)
4.10 St James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Hunters’ Chase (Amateur riders: 3m 2f 70yd)
4.50 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (2m 4f 56yd)
5.30 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (2m)

Tickets

TODAY
Club enclosure: £90
Tattersalls enclosure: £60
Tattersalls grandstand seating: sold out
Guinness grandstand: sold out
Guinness view: sold out
Best Mate enclosure: £45
Cheltenham Restaurant packages: from £370

TOMORROW
Club enclosure: £90
Tattersalls enclosure: £60
Tattersalls grandstand seating: sold out
Guinness grandstand: sold out
Guinness view packages: sold out
Best Mate enclosure: £45
Cheltenham Restaurant packages: from £445

THURSDAY
Club enclosure: £90
Tattersalls enclosure: £60
Tattersalls grandstand seating: from £140
Guinness grandstand: sold out
Guinness view: sold out
Best Mate enclosure: £45
Cheltenham Restaurant packages: from £390

FRIDAY
Club enclosure: sold out
Tattersalls enclosure: sold out
Tattersalls grandstand seating: sold out
Guinness grandstand: sold out
Guinness view packages: sold out
Best Mate enclosure: sold out
Long Run Restaurant packages: £750

TV and radio
The Cheltenham Festival will be broadcast by ITV for the first time. Live coverage of the first five races will be introduced by Ed Chamberlin from 1-4.30pm daily. The whole meeting can also be seen live on subscription channel, Racing UK.

BBC Radio 5 Live will be based at Cheltenham from today to Friday, with a live programme from 1-4pm. The final three races each day will be covered by a separate programme on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra. Cheltenham Radio (87.7 FM) will also cover every race live.

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