Next week kicks off one of the highlights of the Jump calendar as the 2018 Cheltenham Festival gets underway. The Festival 2018 runs from 13 through 16 March for four days of racing, activities and fun. More than a quarter million people will funnel through the gates next week to attend the grand party that always ends up being one of the high points in National Hunt racing each year.
With this being one of the year’s major racing events, you can be sure all the world’s best bookmakers will be working overtime to attract new and old customers alike. This means you’ll be treated to no small amount of betting promotions, special offers and competitive odds from just about every bookmaker online.
Today, we’ll be looking at the Cheltenham Festival betting odds, schedule of events and best betting sites for anyone interested in having a flutter on one of the year’s great race meets. Time is growing short as we’re just days out from opening day, so let’s get right to it.
Best Cheltenham Festival Betting Sites
One of the nice things about betting on Cheltenham online is you have no shortage of options. All the world’s major racing bookmakers will have their doors open and welcome signs on. My advice for choosing a Cheltenham betting site is the same as it is any other time of year: pick a well-known, brand-name betting site.
The biggest names offer the best welcome rewards, the most competitive odds and longstanding reputations. Here are my top picks:
2018 Cheltenham Schedule of Events
We have four days of racing to look forward to beginning 13 March with Champion Day and then moving through Ladies Day, St. Patrick’s Thursday and wrapping up with Gold Cup Day on 16 March.
Something worth keeping in mind as you make your Cheltenham betting plan is the sheer number of races we’ll be watching over the next week. Each day features seven races, all of which will be tempting for a wager. Remember to plan ahead so that you don’t blow look down two days into the festival and realize you’ve already blown through your bankroll. Make a plan and stick to it so you’re still geared to pounce on opportunities all the way through to the very end.
All odds below are Racebets.com antepost odds as of 9 March.
Day One: Champion Day
Day One may turn out being an expensive day for the bookmakers with no less than four name favourites likely to attract significant betting handle. Getabird in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is shaping up to present the biggest danger to the bookmakers as he is unbeaten in four starts and is trained by Willie Mullins, who has had a winner in this exact race three times in the last five years.
|Supreme Novices’ Hurdle||13:30||Getabird: 6/4|
|Arkle Chase||14:10||Footpad: 11/8|
|Ultima Handicap Chase||14:50||Coo Star Sivola: 7/1|
|Champion Hurdle||15:30||Buveur D’air: 1/2|
|Mares Hurdle||16:10||Apple’s Jade: 8/13|
|National Hunt Chase||16:50||Jury Duty: 4/1|
|Novices’ Handicap Chase||17:30||De Plotting Shed: 5/1|
Day Two: Ladies Day
While Day One looks like a scary one for the bookmakers, most Day Two races are wide open aside from Samcro in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle and Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. As you can see from the betting odds below, the oddsmakers have yet to identify any truly dominant favourites in the remaining races.
|Ballymore Novices Hurdle||13:30||Samcro: 4/6|
|RSA Chase||14:10||Presenting Percy: 5/2|
|Coral Cup||14:50||William Henry: 9/1|
|Queen Mother Champion Chase||15:30||Altior: 8/11|
|Cross Country Chase||16:10||Cause of Causes: 5/2|
|Fred Winter Handicap Hurdle||16:50||Act of Valour: 8/1|
|Champion Bumper||17:30||Blackbow: 9/2|
Day Three: St. Patrick’s Thursday
Cheltenham Day Three will provide plenty of excitement between the £300,00 Ryanair Chase and £300,000 Stayers Hurdle. Both are will be great races, but the Ryanair Chase is especially interesting with Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux coming in as the betting favourite. Un De Sceaux has tasted success at Cheltenham previous and most recently became the first ever horse to win Ascot’s Clarence House Chase three times.
|JLT Novices Chase||13:30||Footpad: 5/2|
|Pertemps Handicap Hurdle||14:10||Glenloe: 8/1|
|Ryanair Chase||14:50||Un De Sceaux: 11/10|
|Stayers Hurdle||15:30||Supasundae: 3/1|
|Brown Advisory Plate||16:10||Tully East: 7/1|
|Mares Novice Hurdle||16:50||Laurina: 4/6|
|Kim Muir Handicap Chase||17:30||Mall Dini: 5/1|
Day Four: Gold Cup Day
And for the grand finale, we have Gold Cup day and the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself. This year’s Gold Cup favourite is Might Bite at 11/4 and he is followed by some stiff competition in Native River at 9/2, Our Duke at 13/2 and Road to Respect and Killultagh Vic, both at 8/1. Might Bite is a well-deserved favourite, but if I had to pick a longer-shot as a backup, I’d go with Road to Respect who has tasted victory at Cheltenham and who seems to just get better every outing.
|Triumph Hurdle||13:30||Apple’s Shakira: 3/1|
|County Hurdle||14:10||Max Dynamite: 7/1|
|Albert Bartlett Notices’ Hurdle||14:50||Next Destination: 7/2|
|Cheltenham Gold Cup||15:30||Might Bite: 11/4|
|Foxhunters Chase||16:10||Burning Ambition: 10/3|
|Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle||16:50||Flawless Escape: 7/1|
|Grand Annual Handicap Chase||17:30||Vaniteux: 8/1|
Weather to Play a Role
The closer we get to Cheltenham 2018, the more it appears weather may play a factor. Just on Friday evening, Cheltenham clerk of the course pointed to rain as a very real possibility. According to the Guardian, Simon Claisse went so far as to say the going “may well be heavy in places” if current forecasts calling for as much as 17mm of rainfall hold true.
Claisse also said, “If we get what’s forecast, we’ll certainly end up soft – but it’s difficult to predict [the effect] because it all depends on the intensity.”
Rain did indeed come through Friday evening, leading to the going changing from Good to Soft, Soft in places to Soft, Heavy in places. More showers are forecast over the weekend and Claisse does not see the course drying considerable by opening day:
“We’ve had a little more rain than we expected with 14 mm falling at the track overnight and it’s a shower outlook from now through to Monday,” Claisse said on Saturday morning. “I don’t envisage the ground drying out considerably in time for Tuesday. We may shed the heavy in places depending on how much we get through the forecast showers, but I wouldn’t see it reversing to good to soft.”
The latest weather forecasts for the Cheltenham racecourse include the possibility of more rain:
- Tuesday: Mostly dry, partly cloudy
- Wednesday: 50% chance of rain
- Thursday: 50% chance of rain
- Friday: 40% chance of rain
Cheltenham Betting Specials
The top Cheltenham Festival betting sites have opened a variety of specials markets that extend way beyond simply picking the winners of individual races. In addition to the standard lineup of horse bets, you’ll find dozens of markets for top trainers, top owners and more.
The top trainer market is dominated by three names that should be quite familiar to anyone who has following Cheltenham over the years: Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson.
Willie Mullins has been priced as the consensus favourite with odds right around even money. Sheer numbers combined with legendary training skills and past success at Cheltenham make Mullins an easy favourite for the oddsmakers. Over the years, he has trained 54 festival winners and some of his most-anticipated runners this year include Getabird, Footpad and Un De Sceaux.
If you want to back the betting favourite, you can get the best price for Mullins at Racebets.com where he is priced at 5/4. William Hill has him at 1/1 while ComeOn is offering 11/10.
Gordon Elliott was crowned top trainer last year with six winners and comes in as an unsurprising contender to do it once again. Elliot is bringing with him a full stable and will have entries in all but one race over the course of the Festival 2018.
Elliot has three betting favourites lined up already with Samcro favoured in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, Apple’s Jade favoured in the Mares’ Hurdle and Cause of Causes in the Cross Country Chase. You can back Elliot for 5/2 at ComeOn.com.
Nicky Henderson comes in with fewer runners than Mullins or Elliot, but the quality of his entries cannot be overstated. Henderson-trained horses are favoured in some of the Festival’s biggest races. Those favourites include Buveur D’air in the Champion Hurdle, Altior in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, Might Bite in the Gold Cup and Apple’s Shakira in the Triumph Hurdle.
However, a couple of things have turned against Henderson over the past 24 hours. The weather forecast has Henderson a bit worried for Might Bite, who he said “won’t relish it as much as some of our others.” More recently, Henderson’s On the Blind Side has been ruled out of the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. On the Blindside was seen as the primary challenger to Samcro in that race.
You can back Henderson for 9/4 at Racebets.com.
Now, let’s compare the odds for a few Cheltenham betting specials across three major bookmakers.
|Mrs. S Ricci||6/1||9/2||4/1|
|Munir & Souede||12/1||9/2||10/1|
|Ann & Alan Potts||25/1||25/1||20/1|
|Nico de Boinville||12/1||10/1|
|Ireland Most Winners||50/69||8/11||8/13|
|Great Britain Most Winners||7/4||11/8||7/4|