Cheltenham Festival 2021: The key trends you need to know

TwinSpires Staff

March 15th, 2021

by Josh Powell

The key trends you need to know for the Cheltenham Festival before having a bet at the Greatest Show on Turf.

TwinSpires writer Josh Powell will be on site every day for the 2021 Cheltenham Festival in Great Britain. Josh will provide daily assessments and analysis of racing trends, track play and bias, and other key track-side information punters desire.

The Cheltenham Festival is almost here, and the best horses from the UK and Ireland get set to do battle over four fascinating days at Prestbury Park. 28 races, millions in prize money, and plenty of bragging rights are up for grabs in the pinnacle of jumps racing.

As we prepare for another unbelievable four days of action, here are the key trends you should know before placing a bet – plus the one horse you should be betting on each day.

Fate of the Favourites

Going into a Cheltenham race as a favourite is always a sure sign of a quality horse, but as the saying goes – the horse never knows its own odds. In the 140 Festival races in the last five years, there have been 40 winning favourites, a strike rate of 28.5%.

That strike rate climbs slightly to 35% if you consider favourites who were +300 or shorter in the betting. There have been 72 of them in the last five years, and 25 of them got their head in front.

But be careful you don’t get burnt. In the last two years there have been eight horses who have been -100 or shorter in the betting, and only two of them have won.

Horses for Courses

In the last 16 years there have been 423 Cheltenham Festival races, and more than half (53% to be exact) were won by horses who had already been in the places at Cheltenham.

Whether it’s the deceivingly steep Cheltenham hill or the fanfare that comes with the Festival, having course form under your belt is a clear advantage.

No Second Chances

Some racing bettors will forgive and forget – others will hold a grudge. The Cheltenham Festival is a place where you should be the latter.

In the last six years at Cheltenham 346 horses have gone to post with BF beside their name – meaning they were a beaten favourite on their last run. Sometimes they will have an excuse. Maybe conditions didn’t suit, the jockey got his tactics wrong, they were a bit unlucky, etc.

But of those 346, only 16 bounced back and won at the Festival. That’s just 4.6%.

There are no second chances here.

Jockeys in the Cold

Some jockeys will go down in racing folklore for their efforts at Cheltenham – Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty rode more than 100 Festival winners between them, and A.P. McCoy had his fair share of success.

But with those lads having hung up the saddles, bettors must turn to new heroes to steer their horses to glory. And while trying to pick the right one is difficult, there are a few to avoid.

Paddy Brennan has ridden 73 Festival races since he last won in the 2010 Grand Annual, while Tom O’Brien and Jonathon Burke have had 79 Cheltenham races between them and never won. Sam Twiston-Davies (58 races), Robbie Power (40) and Tom Scudamore (38) are all out in the cold as well.

The Idea of Head Gear

Finally, keep your eye on horses with first-time head gear (cheek pieces, blinkers, or a visor). Trainers can try and get a little bit more improvement out of a horse in first-time head gear and that could be the difference between winning and losing.

Of the 71 horses in the last three years wearing head gear for the first time, 20% of them were in the places.

Picks and plays for every day of Cheltenham

Tuesday’s Tip

Champion Hurdle: Honeysuckle

Henry De Bromhead’s superstar has won all 10 of her races over hurdles and won the Mares’ Hurdle at the Festival last year. Epatante was beaten despite being favourite last time out while Goshen hasn’t placed in two runs at Cheltenham.

Wednesday’s Tip

Champion Bumper: Kilcruit

This race looks like a match bet between Kilcruit and Sir Gerhard who are the two stand-out bumper horses in the sphere. Sir Gerhard beat Letsbeclearaboutit by 4 1/2 lengths in Navan before Christmas, while Kilcruit beat the same rival by 12 lengths in February. That form stands up.

Thursday’s Tip

Ryanair Chase: Min

Arguably one of the most open races of the year, Min is worth a bet despite pulling up last time out at Leopardstown. The reigning Ryanair Chase champion is here to defend his crown and if he can run up to his very best level, his rivals will have to improve on their own form to match him.

Friday’s Tip

Cheltenham Gold Cup: Al Boum Photo

Al Boum Photo is aiming for a historic third Gold Cup on the spin, and he looks awfully hard to beat. Last year he prepared for this race by going to Tramore on New Year’s Day and winning by six lengths. He did the same this year and won by 19 lengths. There is plenty of pace in this race which will suit Al Boum Photo, who travels strongly and jumps like a stag.