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The Cheltenham Festival 2021 – The ‘How To Bet’ Guide


Cheltenham betting odds have constantly changed and been updated during the months leading up to 2021 Cheltenham Festival. 

Impressive prep runs, disappointing homework, injury, improvement and weight of money are all ingredients thrown into a mix which ultimately gives us the latest Cheltenham betting odds.

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Cheltenham Betting – How to make the most of it

Cheltenham betting odds have constantly changed and been updated during the months leading up to Festival.  Impressive prep runs, disappointing homework, injury, improvement and weight of money are all ingredients thrown into a mix which ultimately gives us the latest Cheltenham betting odds.

As the countdown clock unwinds and months become weeks and then days the Cheltenham betting markets do settle down somewhat but online bookmakers then begin to ramp up their marketing activities meaning they start to issue Cheltenham free bets and devise concessions that can result in free bets – such as stakes returned if the favourite wins a certain race.

Cheltenham Betting – How to Bet on a Horse

Betting at Cheltenham is a very simple process for the uninitiated, and if you get stuck or need help, most online bookmakers have ‘Live Chat’ facilities where you can bet a real person within seconds. Failing you can contact them via phone or email.

Place your Cheltenham bets in most cases is as simple as the following steps:

  1. Log in (or sign-up) to your chosen online bookie site
  2. Navigate to the horse racing or dedicated Cheltenham section (if there is one)
  3. Find the race you want to bet on. (there are 28 races over the 4 days)
  4. Click on the betting odds next to the horse you want to back
  5. This selection will then be added to your Betting Slip
  6. From the betting slip area , set your stake and set each-way if preferred
  7. Click on the Place Bet button and confirm your bet.
  8. That’s it! You bet is now on. Sit back and enjoy the races.

As the countdown clock unwinds and months become weeks and then days the Cheltenham betting markets do settle down somewhat but online bookmakers then begin to ramp up their marketing activities meaning they start to issue Cheltenham free bets and devise concessions that can result in more free bets (such as stakes returned if the favourite wins a certain race). Stayed tuned to freebets.com for all such offers.

Cheltenham Form – How to Read the Cheltenham Racecards

RaceCard Cheltenham

Of course the latest Cheltenham betting odds are all based on form and how people interpret that form.  But, make no mistake, the best recent form does not make horses win races, it is simply an indicator of what we can expect.

Racing Form

The above image is an example racecard from the Racing Post which is the bible when it comes to horse racing. Most horse racecards are laid out in a similar fashion.

Understanding the Form Figures

The first big number you see on the left hand side are the horse’s racecard numbers 1,2,3,4 etc.  Underneath this are a series of numbers which indicate the horse’s finishing positions in it’s previous runs. For example the number 1 means it came 1st , 2 means 2nd and so on. If it did not finish in the first 9 it will be displayed as a 0.

Sometimes letters appear too if a horse did not finish the race. These letters tell you why and are shown below:

  • F – Fell
  • P – Pulled Up (i.e. Did not finish)
  • B – Brought Down
  • U – Unseated Rider
  • R – Refused To Race or Jump

These form figures can be the most misleading of all the information on a race-card as it does not indicate how many rivals it raced against of the quality of the races it has been contesting.

While form-figures of 1-2-1-1-2-1-1 may impress, only when you look at the previous races will you realise these impressive finishes came in poor races often against just one or two opponents.

You will often see other letters after the horse’s name which tell you if the horse is wearing any headgear such as…

  • e/s – Eye Shield
  • v – Visor
  • b – Blinkers
  • b1 – Blinkers for the first time
  • h – Hood
  • c – Cheek pieces

Horse racing form is dissected more than any other sport, everything can be found on a racecard from the days since the last run, weight set to carry, jockey, trainer, winning time of previous race starts to distances, in-running comments, expert analysis and a whole lot more.

Initially reading a race-card can be intimidating and confusing but as with anything with practice, you will soon be accustomed to reading Cheltenham racecards in no time.

Cheltenham Bet Types – How to decide your bet type

There’s no end of bet types you can choose when placing a bet on the Cheltenham Festival, from simple ‘win’ bets to ‘Tricasts and Trifectas’, ‘Exactas’ to the ‘Scoop 6’.

Ultimately when betting on the Cheltenham Festival it is best to decide what you want to achieve before choosing your bet type.  Yes, naturally we all want to win, but winning big may require a complex multi-leg bet.  Winning small, and with a far better chance of getting a return, something like an each-way bet may be a better option.

A win bet is obviously the most straightforward and, in a number of races amongst the leading bookmakers, get unlucky with one of these during the Cheltenham Festival and you are likely to receive a free bet as compensation.  Free bet concessions include things like coming second to the favourite or being beaten by half-a-length or less.

How each way bets work

An each-way wager splits your bet stakes between a win bet and a place bet.  So, if your selection finishes third you will receive winnings on part of your stake at a fraction of your selections price (normally a quarter of the odds).  So, back at 10/1 shot that wins for £1 each-way (a bet that will cost £2) and your return will be £11 for the win part of the bet plus an additional £3.50 for the ‘place’ part (a quarter of 10/1 is 5/2 and £1 at 5/2 gives you a £3.50 return) – £14.50 in total returns.

Other bet types

An ‘exacta’ or ‘straight-forecast’ requires you to select the first and second in correct order, while a ‘tricast’ or ‘trifecta’ need you to find first, second and third in correct order. Naturally this is no easy task but, especially somewhere like the Cheltenham Festival where there are huge field sizes, the returns can be massive.

Most online sportsbooks will have a simple explainer as to the bet types they take and how dividends are calculated.  This is in addition to guides on the popular multiple bets such as Lucky 15’s and Lucky 31’s.

How to understand Cheltenham betting odds

Most people have a good grasp of betting odds, albeit as many people tuning into the Cheltenham Festival will be placing a horse racing bet for the very first time, here’s a quick run-down.

Odds are normally displayed in one of two ways – Fractional and Decimal.  With fractional odds you will see two numbers, such as 5/2. Here the first number indicates how much you will win and the second number how much you have to wager to receive these winnings.  So, a £2 stake at 5/2 will yield £5 in winnings plus your £2 stake will be returned.

The same price displayed in decimal odds will be shown as 3.50.  This shows you how much you will receive in winnings including a 1.0 (or £1) stake.

For the most part UK and Irish punters choose to see fractional odds.  Naturally the bigger the price, theoretically the less likely a selection will win.  But, consequently, when one of these outsiders does prevail, the more you will receive in winnings.

How to Choose a Cheltenham Winner

Finding Cheltenham winner should be simple, in theory.  With 28 races to choose from, and a number of ‘championship races’ where all runners carry the same weight, there is normally a short-priced favourite or two to pin your hopes on.

Cheltenham Betting Winner

Favourites are the shortest priced horse in the betting and they become a short price due to the ‘weight of money’.  The ‘betting favourite’ earns its name and price due to it being the favourite amongst punters and their bets combine to see its price contract.  Theoretically the opinion of the many should ultimately give us the most likely winner of any race by giving us a ‘favourite’.

So, you can simply follow the crowd and back favourites blind in the belief that the opinion of established punters is worth more than your own.

But there are plenty of factors to consider when placing any bet.  Is your horse stamina-laden?  If so it may run above the level of form that it has previously shown at Cheltenham as races are normally run at a very fast pace.  Is there a likelihood of rain turning the going to ‘heavy’?  Some horses excel in heavy going and others can leave their form at home if racing on bottomless ground.

Alternatively you could read more into jockey bookings.  Some jockeys have the choice of rides and they should know better than anyone which horses have the best chance.  Ruby Walsh, for example, has had a remarkable 56 winners at the Cheltenham Festival.

The Irishman has had at least two winners at every Cheltenham Festival since 2004 (a remarkable seven in 2009 and 2016) and following his rides looks sure to yield more winners in 2020.

Cheltenham Betting Tips & Tricks

  • Consider backing any selections priced at 4/1 or greater each-way.  This way, should they finish in the frame you will receive your stake back or show a profit.
  • Place your bets early – all major firms are offering ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ so there is no downside and the considerable upside of getting a price better than the SP (starting price).
  • Take full advantage of race day concessions and Cheltenham free bet offers. There are some amazing betting bargains to be had!

Cheltenham Betting Tips