Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide – All You Need to Know
Ireland won 23 of the 28 races at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. Britain’s trainers will hope to avoid a similar drubbing this year, but it won’t be easy. Of the 28 races spread over the four days (15 to 18 March), Ireland has the ante-post favourites in 21 of them.
Willie Mullins brings an army of runners and is odds-on to be the leading Cheltenham Festival trainer. His main rival, Gordon Elliott, brings a squad of over 50.
The betting markets suggest the home team could at least get off to a good start on Tuesday. If they’re already three-nil down by the time the Champion Hurdle gets under way, prepare for another Irish Cheltenham Festival whitewash.
Fifteen of the Cheltenham Festival races are Grade 1 status. Fields for the handicaps won’t be known until nearer the time, so let’s focus on the top-level contests.
1.30 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m
The fate of Britain’s runners gets an early test in the first race of the Cheltenham Festival. Nicky Henderson and Willie Mullins have won seven of the last nine renewals of this race, Mullins scoring five times to Henderson’s two. They go head-to-head, Henderson with the unbeaten pair Constitution Hill and Jonbon, Mullins with the talented Dysart Dynamo, both undefeated in two starts over hurdles.
Just nine horses have been declared for the Festival opener. Constitution Hill and Dysart Dynamo jointly head the betting market at 9-4 with Unibet while Jonbon is available at 9-2 with Paddy Power.
Mullins also runs Kilcruit, last year’s Cheltenham Festival Bumper runner-up. William Hill go 13-2 about him.
VERDICT: Henderson has a strong hand but the Irish novice hurdle form looks even stronger. Dysart Dynamo is the choice to get Ireland off to as flying start.
2.10 Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m
Trainer Alan King’s best hopes of a Cheltenham Festival winner rest with Edwardstone. Winner of his four completed starts over fences, he followed victory in Sandown’s Henry VIII Novices’ Chase with wins in Grade 2 company at Kempton and Warwick. He’s widely available at 9-4 with Betfred to follow up here.
There was only half a length between the Mullins-trained Blue Lord and Gordon Elliott’s mare Riviere D’etal when they met in the Grade 1 Irish Arkle at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival. Blue Lord just got the verdict that day but there’s nothing to separate them in the betting, with both available at 7-2 with SportNation.
Mullins also runs Haut En Couleurs (8-1 Unibet) and Saint Sam (9-1 Coral) so launches a three-pronged attack in the 11-horse field.
VERDICT: There’s no Shishkin in this year’s Arkle. Nor does the Irish novice chase form look particularly strong. Edwardstone can give Alan King his first Cheltenham Festival victory since Uxizandre won the 2015 Ryanair.
3.30 Champion Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m
All eyes will be on last year’s winner Honeysuckle. Henry de Bromhead’s star mare is unbeaten in 14 starts, including 10 Grade 1s. Race sponsors Unibet have her at 7-4 on to win a second Champion Hurdle.
Willie Mullins supplies her chief market rival in Appreciate It, making his first start since bolting up by an astonishing 24 lengths in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. Coral go 4-1 chance to defy his long absence.
A greater danger could be Gordon Elliott’s Teahupoo, winner of all three starts this season, the latest an 11-length success in the Red Mills Trial Hurdle at Gowran Park.
With 70 Cheltenham Festival winners to his name, Nicky Henderson is second only to Willie Mullins. He’s won the Champion Hurdle a record eight times. His 2020 winner Epatante bids to become only the third horse to regain the Champion Hurdle crown. William Hill go a standout 16-1 about her doing so.
VERDICT: This is surely Honeysuckle’s race to lose but she’s hardly a working man’s price. Teahupoo, available at 10-1 with Betway , represents the each-way value.
4.10 Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 4f
It’s certain to go to Ireland – the first nine in the betting are all Irish-trained – but there’s no obvious ‘banker’ among them.
Since the race’s inception at the Cheltenham Festival in 2008, Willie Mullins has won it nine times, six times running with Quevega. There’s nothing of her class in the field this year, but Mullins nonetheless has a couple of leading contenders.
Stormy Ireland (5-1 Unibet) won Cheltenham’s Relkeel Hurdle on New Year’s Day, Burning Victory (7-1 available with best betting sites) beat Gordon Elliott’s Queen’s Brook (10-1 bet365) by 1½ lengths when they met in the Quevega Mares’ Hurdle at Punchestown last month.
The likely favourite is Henry de Bromhead’s Telmesomethinggirl (3-1 BetVictor), winner of the Mares’ Novice Hurdle at last year’s Cheltenham Festival. She finished third to Royal Kahala in a Grade 3 mares’ contest at Leopardstown over Christmas. Royal Kahala then franked the form by winning again at Gowran Park.
VERDICT: Mullins says of Stormy Ireland: “I think she has a big chance, so she’d be the one to watch.” He could well be right in what looks a below-standard renewal.
1.30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m 5f
Willie Mullins runs Sir Gerhard here instead of Tuesday’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He’s a warm order to win at a best-priced 6-4 on with 888sport.
His main rival looks to be Henry de Bromhead’s Journey With Me (5-1 Paddy Power), who is unbeaten over hurdles.
Best of the Brits is Paul Nicholls-trained Stage Star (6-1 Betfred), winner of all three starts over hurdles. Nicholls says his Grade 1 Challow Hurdle winner is “one of my best chances of the week.”
VERDICT: Sir Gerhard looks the proverbial ‘good thing’ but Journey With Me could be the one to lower his colours. Challow Hurdle winners have an awful record in this race, which counts against Stage Star.
2.10 Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 3m
With Galopin Des Champs and Bob Olinger looking likely to take each other on in the shorter Turners Novices’ Chase, the doors are now open for a British-trained winner.
It sees a rematch between Bravemansgame (15-8 Ladbrokes) and Ahoy Senor (9-2 Boylesports). Bravemansgame has won all four starts over fences, including when beating Ahoy Senor convincingly at Kempton over Christmas.
There’s also the prospect of Venetia Williams’ Scilly Isles Novices’ Chase winner L’Homme Presse (4-1 bet365). Three of his four chase wins have come on good to soft. He’s also in the Turners. Ground conditions will dictate where he runs but this race looks the more likely option.
Willie Mullins isn’t totally out of the reckoning, relying on Capodano, who’s available at 7-1 with bet365.
VERDICT: Paul Nicholls will only have around a dozen runners at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, his smallest number since 2005. Bravemansgame looks his best chance of a winner. However, the vote goes to the rapidly improving L’Homme Presse.
3.30 Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1) 2m
It’s another Mullins v Henderson clash. The latter’s Shishkin is unbeaten in seven starts over fences and trades at odds-on for Wednesday’s Cheltenham Festival feature. If he’d thumped Energumene by 10 lengths when they met at Ascot last month, he’d have been even shorter. But there was only a length between them, which makes this race more competitive.
Energumene reportedly trod on a stone and had a couple of days on the easy list. However, Mullins reported that he went well and jumped three fences in a workout after racing at Navan on Saturday, so he’s back on course. He’s available at 7-2 with William Hill.
Then there’s his stablemate Chacun Pour Soi. He’s the dominant two-mile chaser in Ireland but has disappointed when sent across the Irish Sea. Mullins reckons he’s going to do “something different” and get him to the Cheltenham Festival “a bit fresher”. Unibet offer a standout 9-2 about his chances.
Dan Skelton’s Nube Negra (a general 10-1 shot) hasn’t run since finishing fourth in the Tingle Creek Chase in early December. Skelton says: “He has to be fresh. If you have him off the back of a run within a month it’s too close. He puts so much into his races.” He’ll need the rain to stay away. The better the ground the better his chance.
Last year’s winner Put The Kettle On is now a 20-1 shot, but this is a far stronger renewal than 12 months ago.
VERDICT: This race is always run at an end-to-end gallop. You need a thorough stayer to win it and Shishkin looks the strongest stayer.
5.30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1) 2m
With 17 of the original 29 entries being Irish-trained, the Cheltenham Festival bumper is another race that looks sure to be won by the visitors. Willie Mullins has won three of the last four Cheltenham Festival bumpers and bids for a record-extending 12th victory in the race since its inception in 1992. He has a wealth of top bumper horses this season, none more so than Facile Vega and Redemption Day.
Facile Vega, a son of Walk In The Park out of six-time Mares’ Hurdle heroine Quevega, could be every bit as good as his mum. He demolished a small but select field in the Future Stars Bumper at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival. The way he quickened in the closing stages stamped him as a potential champion. He’s a best-priced 11-10 with Paddy Power.
However, could we be getting caught up in the hype here? Facile Vega is a short-priced favourite but the runner-up at Leopardstown has since been beaten in lesser company. Furthermore, Redemption Day was equally impressive on his sole start over the same course in December.
Against them, Gordon Elliott runs the unbeaten in three starts American Mike, winner of the Future Champions bumper at Navan when last seen in December. He’s widely available at 5-2.
VERDICT: Facile Vega is odds-on with some firms. It’s hard to recommend backing odds-on in a race with so many unexposed sorts. American Mike could prove the biggest threat, but Redemption Day, available at 11-2 (Betfred), looks a more attractive proposition.
1.30 Turners Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m 3f 168y
The problem with introducing this third Grade 1 novice chase at the Cheltenham Festival is it waters down the fields for the Arkle and Brown Advisory. It’s an unnecessary addition and looks likely to have a small field this year.
It does, though, bring about a potential mouth-watering clash between Willie Mullins’ Galopin Des Champs and Henry De Bromhead’s Bob Olinger. Both won over hurdles at last year’s Cheltenham Festival and are unbeaten over fences.
Unibet go 11-10 Bob Olinger, while Galopin Des Champs is available at 6-5, so the betting suggests there’s little between them.
Venetia Williams’ L’Homme Presse also holds an entry but looks more likely to go for the Brown Advisory.
VERDICT: Galopin Des Champs or Bob Olinger? On paper, this looks a match between them. Bob Olinger narrowly gets the vote.
2.50 Ryanair Festival Trophy Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4f 127y
Allaho won this last year and is odds-on to do so again. He’s won both his starts this season, including when beating Janadil (10-1 generally) in the John Durkan Chase at Punchestown in December.
Dan Skelton takes him on with Shan Blue (8-1 Ladbrokes). When last seen, he was about to win Wetherby’s Charlie Hall Chase by a long way until falling three out. Skelton could have aimed him at one of the big handicaps where he’d have been thrown in off a mark of 148, so saving him for this race is a bold move.
Surprise Irish Gold Cup winner Conflated is a best-priced 13-2 with bet365. His trainer, Gordon Elliott, would have preferred running him in the Gold Cup, but the horse’s owner, Michael O’Leary, has the final say. His company sponsors the race and he’d love to win it.
VERDICT: On all known form, Allaho looks the Cheltenham Festival banker of the week. Even Willie Mullins admits it’s his best chance.
3.30 Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
Having bombed out in last year’s Gold Cup, Champ (5-1 William Hill) was given a confidence-restorer over hurdles in Ascot’s Grade 1 Long Walk in December. The plan was then to go back chasing. However, he won that race so well that it turned him into a genuine Stayers’ Hurdle contender.
Champ started favourite for the Cleeve Hurdle on Cheltenham Festival Trials Day. However, he was beaten by 2019 Stayers’ Hurdle winner Paisley Park. (a standout 7-1 with Unibet), whose chance had looked hopeless after giving away ground by whipping round at the start.
The Philip Hobbs-trained Thyme Hill finished second to Champ in the Long Walk, with Paisley Park back in third. He missed last year’s Cheltenham Festival through a minor injury but bounced back to win at Aintree three weeks later. He’s widely available at 9-2.
Last year’s Stayers’ Hurdle winner Flooring Porter can be backed at 3-1 with William Hill. He was beaten by Klassical Dream (5-2 widely available) in Leopardstown’s Christmas Hurdle on his last start. Willie Mullins then ran Klassical Dream back too soon in the Galmoy Hurdle at the end of January, when he could only finish fourth behind Royal Kahala.
Boylesports go 9-1 about Royal Kahala and that looks good each-way value. If she was trained by Mullins rather than Peter Fahey, she’d be half those odds. Boylesports go 9-1 about Royal Kahala
VERDICT: This has been a relatively weak division in recent years. There’s no Big Buck’s or Baracouda or Inglis Drever to whet the appetite. This could be the chance for Thyme Hill to make up for missing last year’s Cheltenham Festival and prove himself best of the current crop of staying hurdlers.
1.30 Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m
You couldn’t fail to be impressed by the manner of Pied Piper’s victory at Cheltenham Festival Trials Day. A reproduction of that form puts him in with a winning chance. He’s available at 5-2 with most bookmakers.
Pied Piper’s trainer, Geordon Elliott, also has Fil Dor, who lost his unbeaten three-race record when beaten by Willie Mullins’ Vauban at Leopardstown’s Dublin Racing Festival.
Vauban had previously gone down narrowly to Pied Piper when they both made their hurdling debuts at Punchestown on New Year’s Eve. Strictly on that form interpretation, Pied Piper wins the Triumph. If only it was that simple!
Best of the British appear to be Knight Salute and Porticello, first and second respectively in Doncaster’s Summit Hurdle. There was only a ¾-length margin between them and they trade around 10-1 to 12-1. Porticello’s trainer, Gary Moore, will be hoping to erase the memory of two years ago, when Goshen had this race in the bag but unseated his rider at the final flight. Knight Salute’s trainer, Milton Harris, will be seeking a first Cheltenham Festival success.
VERDICT: Willie Mullins says Vauban is “going to be a major player” and son Patrick reckons he’ll beat Pied Piper.
2.50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) 3m
This race has been turned on its head since the defection of Minella Crooner with a pulled muscle last week. The similarly named Minella Cocooner (7-1 Betfred) met Minella Crooner over 2m 6f at Leopardstown last month and won by three-quarters of a length.
A change of plan saw Ginto (11-4 Betfair) switched from Wednesday’s Ballymore Hurdle in favour of this longer test. Ginto boasts strong form, having won a Grade 1 contest at Naas on his latest run in January.
Henry Daly has opted to run the massive Hillcrest (a standout 3-1 with Betfred), having previously stated that he wasn’t certain to go to Cheltenham.
Throw in Henry de Bromhead’s Shantreuse, winner of a 3-mile Grade 3 hurdle at Clonmel in heavy ground last month, and this is shaping up to be some race.
VERDICT: A Cheltenham preview panel in Birmingham last week was unanimous (unusually) in tipping Hillcrest as the likeliest winner. However, Shantreuse is interesting at 8-1 with Boylesports and could be the value.
3.35 Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1) 3m 2f
It’s the flagship race of the Cheltenham Festival. Last year’s one-two-three Minella Indo (7-1 Ladbrokes), A Plus Tard (3-1 generally) and Al Boum Photo (10-1 generally) reoppose. They’re joined by fellow Irish raiders Galvin (9-2 standout with Coral) and shock King George VI Chase winner Tornado Flyer (12-1 generally).
There was little between Galvin and A Plus Tard when they met in the Savills Chase over Christmas. Galvin prevailed by a short-head. Minella Indo hasn’t impressed in his three runs this season, going down by 6½ lengths to Conflated in the Irish Gold Cup.
The grey Asterion Furlonge would have a chance but keeps finding a fence at which to fall or make a bad mistake. You can’t afford to make mistakes in any Cheltenham Festival race, especially the Gold Cup.He’s also entered in Thursday’s Stayers’ Hurdle.
The only British-trained runner trading at less than 20-1 is Dan Skelton’s Protektorat, a best-priced 10-1 with bet365. He’s not run since winning the Many Clouds Chase at Aintree in early December. However, don’t let that put you off. Of his four Cheltenham Festival winners, only one had run since Christmas. Skelton believes in having his runners fresh for the big occasion.
VERDICT: With Native River now retired, there’s no natural front-runner in this year’s field. That could mean a more tactical race rather than an end-to-end gallop. Henry de Bromhead holds a strong hand with last year’s first and second Minella Indo and A Plus Tard. However, Gordon Elliott’s Galvin, winner of the National Hunt Chase at last year’s Cheltenham Festival, can show them the way home.
4.50 Mrs Paddy Power Chase (Grade 1) 2m 4½f
First run last year, this is the weakest of the Grade 1 races at the Cheltenham Festival. Irish-trained mares filled the first five places in 2021 and could do so again.
VERDICT: Willie Mullins’ mare Elimay finished a close second to stablemate Colreevy in the inaugural running and can go one place better this time.
Four for the Cheltenham Festival Handicaps
- Ultima Handicap Chase (Tuesday): Does He Know 7-1 with Coral
- Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Tuesday): The Tide Turns – 13-2 with 888sport
- Craft Irish Whiskey Co. Plate (Thursday): Imperial Alcazar – 8-1 with Unibet
- County Handicap Hurdle (Friday): West Cork – 8-1 with Paddy Power.
A Final Thought …
There could be half a dozen odds-on shots during the meeting. They won’t all win. Seven of the last 11 Cheltenham Festival odds-on favourites have been beaten, so don’t be afraid to take them on.