Just like a jockey or trainer, most people having a bet on the Cheltenham Festival are happy to come away with one winner. The four-day National Hunt extravaganza is arguably the most competitive meeting in the world and is brimming with quantity and quality in equal measure.
There will always be a few short-priced favourites at Cheltenham, but they’re not going to be a quick way to make money and there have also been plenty of occasions when they’ve been turned over.
There are definitely some trends, though, to help with the picking of Cheltenham winners. The handicaps have their own trends, but it is worth looking at them once the final entries have been announced so you know who is running in what race and what sort of weight they will be carrying.
The Grade One races are easier to examine in advance as many horses’ targets have been well publicised, so it is worth trying to pick out one or two trends from some of the big races.
The Festival starts with the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, which has been won by Ireland on nine of the last 14 runnings. Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh have won the last two and are responsible for the favourite Douvan. However, Brave Inca was the last outright favourite to win the race in 2004.
Past Festival form is a reliable pointer for the Arkle Chase with nine of the last 12 winners having won or been placed previously. Nicky Henderson has won the race five times and Barry Geraghty has ridden the winner in three of the last six years, so Josses Hill appeals on those trends. Favourites have a poor record and the hot-pot Un De Sceaux hasn’t run at Cheltenham before either.
Wednesday starts with the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle and the last 15 winners have been aged five or six. Leading fancies Outlander and Parlour Games are both seven.
Age is key in the RSA Chase as well as the last eight winners have all been seven, as have 14 of the last 18. That puts Kings Palace at the forefront of considerations, especially with the eight-year-old Coneygree and six-year-old Don Poli having other options.
In the Champion Chase, three of the last five winners have been nine-year-olds, which could bode well for the past two winners of the race – Sprinter Sacre and Sire De Grugy now that they have turned nine. Sprinter Sacre’s big-race jockey Geraghty, meanwhile, has won five of the last 12 renewals.
The World Hurdle has been a race for multiple winners as Baracouda, Inglis Drever and Big Buck’s have won nine of the last 13 runnings between them. Jonjo O’Neill has trained two of the other four winners, but he no longer has a contender after last year’s winner More Of That was ruled out.
The only thing you can guarantee about the Triumph Hurdle on the Friday is a four-year-old will win it!
As for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the highlight of the entire week, running at the Festival before, especially in the RSA Chase, has been a feature of recent winners. Favourites have a strong record in the race as well, with seven of the last 12 winning, while the winner tends to be aged between seven and nine. Irish trainers, meanwhile, have won only three of the last 17 renewals.
Looking at the trends then is one way of trying to pick a winner. But then you could have just as much success by closing your eyes and pointing at the racecard.