Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide - Races, Info | LeoVegas Sports


The Cheltenham Festival, a cherished National Hunt festival in the UK, spans four days each mid-March in Gloucestershire. Notable races include the Grade 1 Gold Cup, Stayers Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, and Champion Hurdle. The Gold Cup, sponsored by Boodles, boasts a £625,000 prize in 2023. The Stayers Hurdle, run on Thursday, offers £325,000, won by Sire Du Berlais in 2023. The Queen Mother Champion Chase, run on Wednesday, awards £400,000, with Basdworth Boy holding the record of three wins. The Champion Hurdle, held on Tuesday, presents a purse of £450,000, claimed by Constitution Hill in 2023.

Betting at Cheltenham involves understanding markets like the Win market and Each-Way betting. Ante-post betting allows betting weeks before the race, but risks losing money if the horse doesn't run. Past winners include Golden Miller, Best Mate, and Big Buck’s, each leaving a mark on Cheltenham's illustrious history. Preparation for the Festival involves watching races, considering statistics, and understanding unique Cheltenham challenges.

Cheltenham Festival's rich history, from its beginnings in 1860 to the present, includes notable moments like the introduction of the Stayer’s Hurdle in 1912 and the resilience during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 and the pandemic in 2020. Cheltenham Racecourse, with its three courses, remains a picturesque venue for horse racing enthusiasts, hosting various events beyond racing.

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Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide

The Grand National may be arguably the biggest single National Hunt race in the UK, and the world for that matter, but there are good reasons as to why the Cheltenham Festival is the most-loved National Hunt festival in the world by true jump racing aficionados.

Running over four days since 2005, when previously it was just three, it takes place in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, every year in mid-March.

Given the Festival’s popularity among Irish racegoers and it’s highly appropriate that St Patrick’s Day is celebrated during the Festival every year.

The Festival hosts a total of 28 races, including a fair few Grade 1 events, the most important of which is the Gold Cup, which always takes place on Friday, the final day.


The biggest races at Cheltenham

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest races that you can watch, enjoy and of course have a flutter on, if you so wish.

Gold Cup

The Gold Cup is a Grade 1 steeplechase race that’s contested on the New Course at Cheltenham and run over 3 miles and 2 1/2 furlongs.

It’s a left-handed track and horses will have to clear 22 fences in a race that’s open to horses aged five or older. Unlike the Grand National, it’s not a handicap race meaning there is no extra weight added to lesser-able horses compared to the most highly rated ones.

It was first run in its format in 1924 and there have only been four instances since when it wasn’t held. In 1931 because of excessive frost on the track, in 1933 and 1934 because Great Britain was bang in the middle of the Second World War and in 2001 due to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, with a substitute race held at Sandown instead that year.

It’s currently sponsored by Boodles, the British luxury jewelers, and the total prize fund of it in 2023 was £625,000, with £351,688 going to the winner.

Stayers Hurdle

The Stayer’s Hurdle is actually the oldest race from the Festival that is currently a championship race.

Run over 2m 7f and 213 yards with twelve hurdles to be jumped, it’s also run on the New Course at Cheltenham and is open to horses aged four or over.

It was originally called the Stayers Selling Hurdle because the winner off it was sold for £50 after the event.

The race was then dropped from the Festival twice in subsequent years (1928-1929) and 1939-1945) but re-introduced in 1946.

Between 2005 and 2015 it was renamed the World Hurdle but when it stopped being sponsored by a well-known English betting company in 2015, it reverted to being called the Stayer’s Hurdle. A famous Irish bookmaker has been its sponsor since 2020.

The race purse was £325,000 in 2023 with £182,878 awarded to the 2023 winner, 33/1 chance Sire Du Berlais. It’s always run on Thursday, being the feature race of the day.

The Queen Mother Champion Chase

Unlike the first two, the Champion Chase or Queen Mother Champion Chase as it’s often known as, is a steeplechase race run on the Old Course, rather than the New Course.

Unlike the first two, it’s also short in distance, run over just 1m 7f, making it the leading minimum-distance chase on the National Hunt calendar. It’s open to horses aged five years or older.

First run in 1959, it was only ever not contested once since then (2001, see above).

In 1980 it was officially renamed the Queen Mother Champion Chase, to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 80th birthday in recognition of her support to jump racing. In fact, she was the owner of Game Spirit, who was runner-up to Skymas in this race in 1976.

It’s run on the Wednesday of the Festival and has a purse of £400,000 with £225,080 awarded to the winner.

Champion Hurdle

Also run on the Cheltenham Old Course, this Grade 1 National Hunt hurdle race is always contested on the Tuesday, the opening day of the Festival.

It’s run over 2 miles and 1/2 furlong with just eight hurdles to clear and is open to horses who are four or older.

It’s the final leg of the Triple Crown of Hurdling with the first two races being The Fighting Fifth Hurdle (Newcastle) and The Christmas Hurdle (Kempton).

Just two horses have won The Triple Crown: Henbit (19898-90) and Constitution Hill (2023).

It was first run in 1927 and in 2023 had a purse of £450,000 with £253,215 awarded to the connections of the winner…Constitution Hill.

The Cheltenham betting markets you’ll be playing

If you’re going to be betting on the Cheltenham Festival this year, it’s probably best you know how all the different markets work. Here’s your quickfire guide to them.

The Win market

The simplest, most obvious and most popular horse racing market to bet on.

You’re betting on which horse you think will win the race.

When there are two or more runners who are extremely close at the finishing line, they’re almost always split by a photo finish where the track’s stewards will determine which one crossed the line first, even if only by a couple of inches. Only very, very rarely is there a dead-heat where two horses are both deemed to have won.

If you back a horse at 7/1 (8.0), you will receive your stake back and profits to the value of seven times your stake.

You have two options when it comes to the price on offer on a horse to win.

You can either take the odds currently available, or the Starting Price (SP). The SP is the price at which the horse is available at, just before the race begins.

Betting Each-Way

Each-way betting means that half your bet is placed on the horse to win and the other half on it ‘placing’, which means finishing second, third, fourth or fifth; the number of places depends on the number of horses taking part in the race.

Let’s say Gold Medal is taking part in a 14-runner race at Cheltenham. The LeoVegas each-way rules state that the places are for finishing second, third and fourth and that an each-way place pays at 1/5 of the odds. Gold Medal is available at 15/1 (16.0). You back it each-way for £10; so £10 to win and £10 to place, total £20.

Example 1:

Gold Medal finishes third.

  • You lose your £10 on it to win.
  • You get paid out at 1/5 of 15/1 which is 3/1 (4.0). So, £10 x 3 = £30.
  • You win £30 - £10 = £20 profit.

Example 2:

Gold Medal wins.

  • You get paid out at 15/1 on the win (10 x 15) = £150
  • You get paid out on the place as per above = £10 x 3/1 = £30
  • You win a total of £180 in profit.

Example 3:

Gold Medal finishers sixth.

You lose on both bets, so your full £20.

What does Cheltenham Festival ante-post betting mean?

Ante-post betting refers to bets placed on any horse weeks or even months before the Cheltenham race takes place and up to the point of the overnight declaration stage, which is usually 48 prior to the start of the race.

This allows you to secure big odds on horses who aren’t fancied well in advance of the race; in some cases, their odds will shorten in the weeks or days before the race is staged.

The flipside to this is that if the horse doesn’t run, you’ll lose your money.

However, there are certain circumstances in which changes are made to the race where you would get your money back. Such as the race being abandoned entirely, declared void or the venue or running surface being altered.

Past Cheltenham Winners – Who gobbled up the glory?

Winners at Cheltenham read like a ‘who’s who’ of National Hunt racing greats. Here are some of the most famous winners in Cheltenham’s four biggest races.

Gold Cup: The appropriately named Golden Miller

Golden Miller remarkably won the Gold Cup in five consecutive years (1932-36) and for good measure, also won the Grand National in 1934, the only horse to ever achieve that feat of doing ‘the double’.

The following horses managed to win the Gold Cup on three occasions:

  • Best Mate (2002, 2003, 2004).
  • Arkle (19664. 1965, 1966)
  • Cottage Rake (1948, 1949 and 1950).

Al Boum Photo won it twice as did Kauto Star, but the latter remains the only horse in Gold Cup history to have won it (2007), not won it (2008) and then won it again (2009).

Tom Dreaper is the most successful trainer with five Gold Cup wins spread across three different horses, while Paul Nicholls is the pick of the current trainers with four wins across four separate horses.

Jockey Pat Taafe won the race four times; three on Arkle and once on Fort Laney.

Stayers Hurdle: Bringing in the Big Buck’s

There’s only one place to start and it’s with Big Buck’s, who brought the big bucks to its faithful backers on no fewer than four occasions, winning this race in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 at odds of 6/1, 5/6, 10/11 and 5/6 respectively.

All four of those wins were with Ruby Walsh on board, who then also rode Nichols Canyon to glory (2017) to make it five wins for him, the most of any jockey in this race.

Before Big Buck’s dominance, Inglis Dreaver was victorious in 2005, 2007 and 2008, missing out in 2006.

Baracouda, Galmoy and Flooring Porter are among the horses to have own it on two occasions.

Queen Mother Champion Chase: Boy, he’s done it again

Basdworth Boy is the only horse to have won this race on three occasions (1983, 1984 and 1985) with the added quirk that on each occasion it was trained by a different member of the Dickinson family: Tony, Michael and Monica.

Several horses won it on two occasions:

  • Fortria
  • Drinny’s Double
  • Royal Relief
  • Skymas
  • Hilly Way
  • Pearlyman,
  • Barnbrook Again
  • Viking Flagship
  • Moscow Flyer
  • MasterMinded
  • Sprinter Sacre
  • Altior
  • Energumene

Pat Taffe, featured above in our section on the Gold Cup, won on five occasions, a feat also matched by Barry Geraghty.

Tom Dreaper, Nicky Henderson and Paul Nicholls were each trainers of the winner on six occasions.

Champion Hurdle: The Famous Five

Five horses have won this one on three occasions:

  • Hatton’s Grace
  • Sir Ken
  • Persian War
  • See You Then
  • Istabraq.

Interestingly, each one was victorious in three consecutive years rather than doing so over a period of four or more years.

Among the jockeys, all of Tim Molony, Ruby Walsh (him again) and Barry Geraghty won the race three times while Nicky Henderson dominates proceedings among the trainers with nine wins.

That’s the same number as the leading owner, Irishman J.P McManus.

Cheltenham on my mind: How to cram for the Festival

“All roads lead to Cheltenham” as they say, which means that the vast majority of the best National Hunt horses are raced with Cheltenham in mind.

That allows you to keep tabs on these horses throughout the year. Here are some of the most important things to bear in mind in preparation for the Festival.

There’s no preparation for Cheltenham like watching loads of racing

  • Watch the horses in action throughout the season and make notes of their performances.
  • Even if they don’t win, give them points for jumping well, showing stamina, showing a turn of foot towards the end of the race or showing heart to get over the line.
  • Make a note of the ‘going’ when the horse runs well, or doesn’t run well. If a horse keeps winning when it’s ‘good’ and underperforming when it’s ‘heavy’ you’ll know that you’ll need ‘good’ ground or similar at Cheltenham on the day for it to run well.
  • Make a note of whether the horse runs better with a particular jockey on board as opposed to another.

Stats: Let the numbers do the talking

By stats we can mean lots of different things, relating to very different elements of the race. Here are some to look out for:

  • Trainers: Trainers like Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson have had multiple winners in just about every race at Cheltenham at some stage. Look at the stats for which trainers have had the winner in a particular race as if they keep on winning it, they’re quite likely to train the winner again.

  • Jockeys- A similar story. Not only do the best jockeys normally get to ride the best horses but in tight races, the better jockeys can make a big difference to proceedings. Look out for jockeys with a high win rate (see below) in a particular Cheltenham race.

  • Horses at Cheltenham- Cheltenham has its own unique challenges, most notably its famous hill at the end. Look at how the horse has performed at Cheltenham in the past, even if it’s been in different races.

  • Horse win rate/strike rate- A horse who has 10-15 wins to its name is a perennial winner so tends to find a way to win, whatever the circumstances. But also consider the strike rate: the number of wins compared to the number of times it’s raced. A horse who has raced 20 times and won four times would have a strike rate of 20%.

Cheltenham Festival History: From Caroline to Covid

Back in 1860 the Cheltenham Festival included the National Hunt Chase, held at Market Harborough. Initially titled the Grand National Hunt meeting, it was held at numerous locations in the next few decades, most notably at Warwick Racecourse, though it had been staged at Cheltenham itself back in 1861.

A new Cheltenham Course was built at Prestbury Park in 1902 which included a new stand (the fourth), miles of drain to allow racing to go ahead in rainy conditions, tar paving and extended paddock.

The same year Prestbury Park staged the Cheltenham Festival for the first time there since 1861. After taking place at Warwick a few more times, it finally found its permanent home at Prestbury Park from 1911 to this day.

The Stayer’s Hurdle, first ran in 1912, is the oldest race to still be a Championship race. Later, the Champion Hurdle (1927) and Queen Mother’s Champion Chase (1959) were run for the first time and in both cases, as a Championship race from the first time they were introduced.

Caroline Beasley made history in 1983 by becoming the first female jockey to win a race at Cheltenham (the Foxhunter) and Gee Armytage went one better four years later by winning a race against professionals (the Foxhunter is for amateur jockeys only).

The Festival didn’t take place in 2001 because of an outbreak of foot and mouth disease but did go ahead in 2020 despite the World Health Organisation declaring the out outbreak of a pandemic (Coronavirus) during the second day of the Festival.

Cheltenham Racecourse: Did you know it has three different courses?

Cheltenham Racecourse, nestled in Gloucestershire's picturesque landscape and on a site called Prestbury Park, is most famous for hosting the Cheltenham Festival but it does host other meetings in the autumn and winter months, as well.

The first jumps races held here were back in 1831.

The course's undulating terrain and challenging obstacles, including the famous fences like the challenging "Festival" fence, provide a stern test to horses running here.

It’s a left-handed, oval-shaped course.

There are actually two courses: the New Course is used for the last two days of the Festival and has a tricky downhill fence and a much longer run-in than the Old Course. This one in turn is used for the first two days of the Festival.

There’s actually also a third course that’s used for cross-country steeplechases and is laid inside the main racecourse.

Beyond racing, Cheltenham Racecourse hosts various events, from conferences to weddings, blending its rich sporting heritage with modern amenities. It remains a celebrated destination for horse racing aficionados and visitors seeking unforgettable experiences.


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