Horse Racing

How to Bet on Cheltenham 2024

Throughout the national hunt racing season, Cheltenham betting odds constantly change and are updated during the months leading up to the 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.

Cheltenham Betting – How to Make the Most of it

As the countdown clock ticks towards March, 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 Cheltenham betting offers.

As part of this, they devise concessions that can result in free bets – such as stakes returned if the favourite wins a certain race.

How to Bet on Cheltenham Races

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 that, 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 bookmaker
  2. Navigate to the horse racing or dedicated Cheltenham Festival section (if there is one)
  3. Find the race you want to bet on from the 28 races over the four 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. On the Betting Slip, enter your stake and mark if you want the bet to be each-way
  7. Click on the ‘Place Bet’ button and confirm your bet
  8. That’s it - your bet is now on, so sit back and enjoy the races.

How to Read the Cheltenham Racecards

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 on the left side is the horse’s racecard number - 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, a 2 means it placed 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
  • PU – 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 racecard as it does not indicate how many rivals it raced against, or 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 rivals.

You will often see other letters after the horse’s name, which tell you if the horse is wearing any headgear, has a tongue tie, or has had a wind operation.

These include:

  • e/s – Eye Shield
  • v – Visor
  • b – Blinkers
  • h – Hood
  • c – Cheek pieces
  • t - Tongue Tie
  • ws - Wind Surgery

(The addition of the number 1 after any of these indicates it is the first time the horse has worn them)

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

You can choose numerous bet types when placing a bet on the Cheltenham Festival, from simple ‘win’ bets to ‘Tricasts and Trifectas’, ‘Exactas’ to the ‘Scoop6’.

Ultimately, when betting on the Cheltenham Festival, deciding what you want to achieve before choosing your bet type is best.

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 the price (normally a quarter of the odds).

So, back a 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 Cheltenham Bet Types Explained

An ‘exacta’ or ‘straight-forecast’ requires you to select the first and second in the correct order, while a ‘tricast’ or ‘trifecta’ needs you to find the first, second and third in the 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 of the bet types 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 your stake - so a £2 stake at 3.50 would see £7 returned to you if the bet won.

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 a 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.

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.

Cheltenham Betting Tips

Festival fever is in the air for 12 months of the year, not just four days. From daily racing action at the meeting to long-shot antepost punts, we have every angle of the Cheltenham Festival covered on our horse racing tips page, where our experts will guide you through the action.

You can check our tips for every day on our dedicated pages below.

Cheltenham Betting Tips & Tricks

  • Consider backing any selections priced at 4/1 or greater each-way. This way, you will receive your stake back or show a small profit if they finish in the places.
  • Place your bets early – many major firms offer ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ (BOG), meaning if the SP (starting price) is bigger than the price you took, you will be paid out at the larger odds.
  • Take full advantage of race day concessions and Cheltenham free bet offers - some amazing betting offers will be had over the four days of the Festival!

Cheltenham Festival Key Pages


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What are the main events at Cheltenham Festival?

The four-day Cheltenham Festival has a total of 28 top class races (seven races per day). Five of these races are the main Championship races which consist of the Champion Hurdle on Day 1, the Champion Chase on Day 2, the Ryanair Chase and Stayers' Hurdle on Day 3, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Day 4.

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How to do online betting for Cheltenham?

The process of placing a bet with online bookmakers will be similar, whichever betting site you choose. Before placing any Cheltenham bets online you will first need to ensure you have a funded account with your chosen bookmaker. Then it’s simply a case of adding your selection(s) to the betting slip, setting your stake and finally hitting the Submit / Confirm button. Remember to tick the ‘Each Way’ box if you want to back your horse each way (win and place).

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How to place a bet at Cheltenham racecourse?

If you’re lucky enough to be in attendance at Cheltenham racecourse during the Festival there are several options for placing your bets. You could simply head to one of the many Tote betting windows and place your bets using the racecourse’s Tote pool betting facilities. The other method is to use one of the on-course bookmakers, who set up their pitches in front of the stands. And if neither of those methods appeals to you, you could still whip out your mobile device and place a bet online instead.

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Scott McGlynn

Famed for his Acca of the Day and Bet Builder selections, Scott provides tips across many sports on Freebets, and is our lead Scottish football writer