The Ultimate Cheltenham Festival Horse Racing Guide: Tips and strategies

Cheltenham Festival Horse Racing Guide

The countdown is on to one of the biggest racing events of the year and we have produced the ultimate Cheltenham Festival horse racing guide to help punters with their betting.

The Cheltenham Festival takes place over four days in March, with each day punctuated by a historic championship race.

The action begins on Tuesday with the Champion Hurdle, first run in 1927, while Wednesday sees the running of the Queen Mother Champion Chase (1959).

The meeting’s oldest race – the Stayers’ Hurdle (1912) – takes place on Thursday before the Cheltenham Gold Cup (1924) gets centre stage on Friday.

We have analysed the last 20 editions of the four biggest races to identify some Cheltenham trends and the key ingredients for success.

How often does a favourite win?

Highly-fancied horses tend to do well at Cheltenham, with half of favourites for the Champion Hurdle and the Gold Cup since 2003 going on to win.

Last year was a case in point. Rachael Blackmore rode to victory aboard Honeysuckle for the second successive year in the Champion Hurdle, before rounding off the week with a Gold Cup win on A Plus Tard. Honeysuckle was backed at just 8/11, while A Plus Tard was priced at 3/1.

The Champion Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle have been slightly harder to predict, with the favourite crossing the line first on seven of the past 20 occasions.

The Stayers’ Hurdle in particular has thrown up the odd surprise, such as Lisnagar Oscar winning at 50/1 back in 2020. That victory was one of seven since 2003 by a horse priced outside the top three in the betting.

Which jockey has the best record in the big races?

Rachael Blackmore has set the benchmark at Cheltenham in recent years. She was the first woman to be leading jockey in 2021, with six wins in all races across the four-day meeting, and backed that up with a Gold Cup success in 2022 – again a first for female jockeys.

Blackmore’s overall record in Cheltenham’s biggest races is superb, with three wins and two further top-three finishes from 10 starts. She is going for a hat-trick in the Champion Hurdle in 2023 following back-to-back triumphs with Honeysuckle in the past two years.

English jump jockey Nico de Boinville has also had success at Cheltenham, with four wins and two seconds in the big four races. He won his first Gold Cup aboard Coneygree in 2015 and has since finished as runner-up in 2018 and 2020, although his horses pulled up in 2019, 2021 and 2022.

Which trainers are most successful at Cheltenham?

Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson, Willie Mullins and Henry De Bromhead have dominated the Cheltenham Festival over the past two decades. Between them they have trained a staggering 41 winners of the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, Stayers’ Hurdle and Cheltenham Gold Cup since 2003.

Nicholls has the most wins (13), thanks in no small part to his enormously successful partnership with jockey Ruby Walsh in the late 2000s and early 2010s.

Walsh rode Big Buck’s to four consecutive victories in the Stayers’ Hurdle between 2009 and 2012, while also managing double successes aboard Kauto Star and Master Minded in the Champion Chase and Gold Cup respectively.

De Bromhead has reigned supreme recently, however, completing the Champion Hurdle-Gold Cup double in each of the past two years. The Irish trainer has also recorded three wins in the Champion Chase since 2011.

Does age matter?

Analysis of Cheltenham trends shows the fierce nature of the competition generally favours horses in their prime, with the majority of winners in the Champion Hurdle, the Stayers’ Hurdle and the Gold Cup aged between seven and eight.

That said, the Champion Chase has seen older horses flourish, with almost half of winners since 2003 (nine out of 20) entering veteran status at the age of nine, 10 or 11.

The Champion Chase is the shortest of the four marquee races, at just two miles, which makes it less dependent on high reserves of stamina. For example, the 10-year-old Special Tiara held on for victory in 2017 despite having led from the second fence.

Do Cheltenham trends suggest more French-bred success?

A look at Cheltenham trends shows French breeders have enjoyed something of a purple patch in recent years, with three victories in the past four Gold Cups.

A Plus Tard was the most recent winner in 2022, with third-placed Protektorat and fifth-past-the-post Royale Pagaille also originating from across the Channel.

In contrast, British and Irish thoroughbreds have seen their grip on Cheltenham’s biggest races loosen. Their win rate has dropped from 71% between 2013 and 2018 to 56% since 2019.

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