As the first major event of the racing season each year, the Cheltenham Festival always draws a huge amount of interest. It’s incredibly well-attended, with the Gloucestershire-based racecourse receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors over the course of the festival’s four days. Many more people watch from home, of course, and Cheltenham betting drives a huge amount of this interest.
If you’re new to horse racing betting, Cheltenham is an excellent place to start. There are 28 different individual events you can wager on, across various distances and ability levels. If you’re a Cheltenham betting veteran, you will already have tasted the high levels of excitement and drama which this unique festival provides.
In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Cheltenham betting. We’ll cover all the best special offers, explain how you can get free bets, give you tips on winning your wagers, and plenty more besides.
Every top sportsbook really does pull out all the stops with their Cheltenham betting provisions. Horse racing might be a popular year-round sport to wager on, but the ‘big three’ festivals still generate the bulk of the betting action. Of course all the championship races are covered, with markets opening months in advance. Most bookies will take things a step further though, by also providing a variety of offers.
We’ve covered the most eye-catching promotions later in the ‘Cheltenham Festival Special Offers’ section. For now, let’s concentrate on the more practical deals which should appeal to almost every racing punter, none of which require a promo code to use.
Most major bookmakers will offer ante-post markets, in addition to regular pre-race betting. This is a much longer-term variation, in which you wager on Cheltenham races days, weeks, or even months before they happen.
The main advantage here is that you’ll typically get better prices compared to the pre-race odds, which are usually released the night before a race. The major drawback, of course, is the risk involved. Betting two-time winner Al Boum Photo for the Gold Cup might seem like a safe pick in July 2020, for example, but – by March 2021 – there’s no guarantee he’ll even be in the race.
If ante-post betting tickles your fancy, we’d recommend using Paddy Power. They open their markets nice and early, and invariably provide competitive odds.
The popularity of this offer among Cheltenham betting sites has grown significantly in recent years. Now, it’s pretty much commonplace.
In short, this is an insurance deal. If you back a horse to win a particular race, and it doesn’t even run (usually through injury), your entire stake will be returned.
This offer might not help you make money, but it’ll certainly help you avoid losing it. Coral is a great option here, providing Non Runner No Bet protection on every single Cheltenham race.
This is very similar to Non Runner No Bet. The only major difference is that – instead of being a pre-race deal – it applies during the race instead. If your chosen runner begins the event, but ends up falling or unseating its jockey, you’ll get your money back.
This promotion isn’t quite as widespread as NRNB, despite serving the same general purpose. MansionBet is very strong when it comes to Faller Insurance coverage, though.
Money Back Specials are another great way to avoid making a loss on your Cheltenham betting. They will typically offer you the full return of your initial stake, but only if certain conditions are met.
Paddy Power had one of the best Money Back Specials in 2020, giving you a refund if your chosen winner ended up finishing 2nd, 3rd, or 4th. Sky Bet offered the same deal, with a refund of up to £10 available.
We’re huge fans of free bets here at Safe Betting Sites. Their versatility makes them one of the best rewards you can get from a betting promotion, aside from straight cash. And – if you’re planning to follow a no-risk matched betting strategy – they can actually be even more valuable.
When it comes to Cheltenham betting, we’re pleased to say that bookies find plenty of different ways to dish out free bets. Most of these will be delivered via welcome offers, which are exclusively available to new customers. Some bookies, however, will also let their existing customers get in on the fun.
These promotions can come in a variety of different forms. Some take place in the buildup to Cheltenham, such as Betfair’s Free Bet Pot. With this deal, each time you bet at least £20 on the Exchange on the Saturdays building up to Cheltenham, you’ll be given a £10 free bet with an expiry date long enough to use it on the festival itself.
Others happen during the action. 888sport, for example, provided a brilliant deal for Cheltenham 2020. If you wagered at least £10 on the first race of the whole festival, you would subsequently be given a £5 free bet to spend on every other race that took place that day.
Below, you can check out some of the best ways to gather free bet tokens for your Cheltenham betting in 2021.
The 2020 edition of the Cheltenham Festival was one of the last major sporting events to have fans in attendance, with some 250,000 people visiting. That will unfortunately not be the case in 2021, due to the lengthy lockdown in the UK.
Still, the very fact that the 2020 festival was held is extremely helpful for Cheltenham betting in 2021. While there are many months of other racing form to draw upon, looking back at the last edition of this unique festival can give you a great idea of how runners will perform this year.
For the perfect example, look no further than Al Boum Photo. Ridden by Paul Townend, and trained by W.P. Mullins, this French-bred eight-year old won the Gold Cup in 2020, following its 2019 victory in the same event.
It’s no surprise to see that Al Boum Photo is once again the favourite in the 2021 Cheltenham betting odds. Paddy Power have it at 5/2 to win a hat-trick, at the time of writing, with Champ having the next-lowest odds of 5/1. With 24 different runners to choose from, that’s a sizable difference between the favourite and a second-favourite as highly-regarded as Champ.
Cheltenham betting odds are available on every other race at the festival as well, of course. These range from the very first event – the Supreme Novices Hurdle – through to the Handicap Chase, to the closing Mares Chase. To get an idea of the kinds of prices you’re looking at, here’s a rundown of the current best prices you can get on the top 10 favourites for the Gold Cup.
The Cheltenham betting offers we looked at earlier were mostly about saving you money. There are plenty of promotions out there, though, which are designed to help boost your winnings. Here are three such deals to look out for.
This is one of the most popular horse racing promotions out there, and we’re pleased to say you can find it easily for Cheltenham too. As always, it will apply to your each way bets. While the ‘win’ part of those wagers will remain unchanged, the number of spots you get for the ‘place’ part will increase.
While only one place is normally added, some bookies take it up a gear for Cheltenham. Betfred, for example, have been known to offer a hefty five places with this deal in place, instead of the regular four.
We’ve already touched on welcome offers that give you free bets. There are several other forms of sign up deals out there though, each of which provides different kinds of rewards.
One of the best types is that which gives you massively inflated odds on a single high-risk, high-reward wager. In 2020, for example, Paddy Power offered new customers a ridiculous price of 40/1 on Tiger Roll to win the Cross Country race.
Most of your Cheltenham stakes should go on fairly safe, standard bet types (explained in the next section). The top bookies will also provide some Cheltenham-specific specials bets, though. These will definitely be harder to win, but typically deliver bigger rewards, and – quite simply – can be fun to take.
Most specials bets will apply to the entirety of Cheltenham, rather than specific races. You can bet on the top overall owner, for example, whose horses take the most victories. Similarly you can also bet on the top overall jockey across the four days, or the top trainer.
Finally, an absolute classic Cheltenham special is the Prestbury Cup. This trophy is given to either the UK or Ireland, depending on which country provided the most winners that year. Naturally, you can bet on either the British or Irish to triumph.
As mentioned, while there are some more exotic markets out there, the bulk of your Cheltenham betting should revolve around tried-and-tested bet types. Let’s look at each of the four main ones in turn.
This is the most straightforward horse racing wager there is. Quite simply, you’re betting on which horse is going to win a given race.
That sounds simple in theory. In reality though, it’s anything but. For the very first race of Cheltenham each year, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (which features the famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’), over 30 different runners take part. With that many competitors, your chances of picking a winner are pretty slim. That’s why even the highest-rated horses will typically only have odds of 6/1 or 7/1, and these can grow to a massive 150/1 for the biggest underdogs.
In large and highly competitive fields – like the Handicap Chase at Cheltenham – each ways are the most sensible bets you can place.
Each ways actually consist of two individual wagers. The first is the ‘win’ part, which works the same as a regular race winner bet. The second is called the ‘place’. This means that – if your horse doesn’t win but finishes within a certain range – you’ll still get paid. The return will usually be small, with place odds usually being 1/4 or 1/5, but it’s better than making a loss.
As in other sports, multiples on Cheltenham are high-risk, high-reward wagers. You’ll usually take them here by placing race winner bets on a succession of different races.
Trying to predict the winner of each race across a single day, with a small stake, is one popular route to take with Cheltenham. Given the sheer number of runners involved however, do be aware that your chances of winning these wagers are extremely low.
We’ve generally focused on sportsbooks here, but there is an alternative. Betting exchanges are peer-to-peer, and allow you to basically take whatever odds you like on a horse, as long as someone is willing to match your bet. The drawback to this extra freedom is that you’ll pay a commission on your winnings to the exchange.
Betfair is the most famous betting exchange, and provides excellent coverage of Cheltenham. They also charge relatively high commissions, however, and there are several impressive competitors out there.
Most bets are obviously made on an individual basis. You place your own bets, then either keep the winnings or accept the losses.
Tote betting is a completely different way to gamble, which works in the same way as pool betting. Punters combine their stakes together into one big pot, which is then placed on a certain market (e.g. a certain horse to win a race). If the bet wins, the profits are shared out among the people who contributed.
If you’re looking for a fresh approach to your Cheltenham betting, this is an interesting – and potentially lucrative – route you can take. There’s a decent amount of variety in how you do so too. Simple winner bets are the most straightforward, of course, but you can also join single-race pools for trifectas, or a horse to place. There are also multi-race pools, such as placepots and jackpots, which are even harder to win.
While a few different bookmakers offer pool betting, like William Hill and Unibet, the best one remains The Tote. It’s popular, covers plenty of bet types, and has a reasonable £2 minimum stake limit.
Cheltenham betting can be a whole lot of fun, assume you gamble responsibly. While there’s no guarantee you’ll turn a profit from it, there are certainly measures you can put in place to boost your chances. These are our five top betting tips for making money from your Cheltenham betting.
Plan Out Your Stakes
Creating a staking plan is one of the biggest keys to betting responsibly, and you should definitely do it before Cheltenham kicks off.
Begin by identifying an overall amount you’re comfortable betting, and – potentially – losing. Then, try to create a staking plan. Work out roughly how many wagers you want to place, and allocate your stakes accordingly. Remember to drop those stakes for riskier bets, and ramp them up a little for safer picks.
Mix Your Risk/Reward
As noted above, there are several different ways you can bet on Cheltenham. Don’t limit yourself to just one. In addition to safer each way picks, for example, look to mix some more high-risk, high-reward wagers onto your betslip.
Whether it’s joining a tote pool, or sticking down a multiples wager, hitting just one ambitious bet – even with a small stake – can transform your profits on Cheltenham betting.
Do Your Research
As the first major event of the season, Cheltenham receives a huge amount of attention from the experts. A huge number of betting tips are released in early March, via social media and websites like Racing Post. The vast majority will be completely free, and you should gather as many as you can get your hands on to help inform your betting.
Also, study the form of runners in any races you’re interested in – not just their recent races, but their past performances at Cheltenham too.
Look Outside the Gold Cup
The Gold Cup is the most prestigious event at Cheltenham, and draws the most betting attention. Limit yourself to just wagering on this though, and you’ll miss out on a variety of other excellent opportunities.
At least 27 other races will be run. All of these will be covered by the experts, and all of them represent chances to make money.
Have Multiple Accounts
There’s no rule that says you have to stick to one account for your Cheltenham betting. In fact – because there are so many great welcome offers for the festival – now is the perfect time to sign up with some new bookies. Naturally, check the full T&Cs for stipulations on payment methods, min odds and so on before doing so.
This will also allow you to snatch up the best odds for a horse on any individual race, rather than being stuck with whatever your specific sportsbook is offering you.
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the three biggest horse racing events in the UK each year. Along with the Grand National and Royal Ascot, this prestigious and popular event is one of the pillars of the British racing calendar. While not quite as long-running as the Grand National, Cheltenham still has an impressive history. The first edition took place all the way back in 1860, and it has only been cancelled a handful times in over 120 years since.
One of the main reasons for its popularity is its timing. Cheltenham is always held in March, making it the unofficial start of the main racing season in the UK. The fact that this coincides with the beginning of the British spring certainly doesn’t hurt.
The Cheltenham Festival runs for four days, typically between Tuesday and Friday. 28 different races are held in that time, including 14 Grade One races. These not only draw the most attention from racing fans, but also the most Cheltenham betting action. While the likes of the Champion Hurdle and National Hunt Queen Mother Champion Chase are important, the action truly climaxes with the Gold Cup on the final day. Below, you can see a rundown of the winners of this all-important event over the past decade.
After a long winter without any major events to bet on, Cheltenham is a welcome prospect each March. We mean no disrespect to events like the Winter Festival at Newbury, but they simply can’t compare to the scale and excitement of Cheltenham.
If you’ve been lying low with your racing betting over the winter too, this is the perfect time to come out of hibernation. When practiced responsibly, few gambling experiences are more fun than Cheltenham betting. There are simply so many events to wager on – many of which are of the highest quality – with hundreds of different horses involved.
To give yourself the best chance of making money on your Cheltenham betting, we’d highly recommend following the tips in this article. Be sure to use as many special offers as possible too, in order to both avoid losses, and maximise your profits on wins.
You have a lot of great options, but Betfair, Paddy Power, Betfred, and 888sport are arguably the best of the best. If you prefer pool betting however, you can use a specialist like The Tote.
The first way is via welcome offers. You’ll usually need to place a qualifying bet, and will be given free bets in return - e.g. ‘Bet £10, Get £30’. The second is via ongoing promotions. Betfair, for example, gives you free bets in return for meeting wagering requirements in the buildup to Cheltenham.
Aside from free bet offers, there are plenty of other Cheltenham promotions available. Some reduce your chances of making a loss, such as Non Runner No Bet and Faller Insurance. Others help maximise your returns, like Extra Places, Best Odds Guaranteed, and certain welcome offers.
It works in the same way as pool betting. A group of punters pool their stakes together into one big fund, which is placed on a certain market. If that big bet wins, profits are divided between the tote’s backers.
ITV Racing and Racing TV each provide live coverage of Cheltenham, via both television and online streaming. Several bookmakers also provide live streaming of the event, including Ladbrokes, Coral, and Betfair.
Joe is a highly-experienced writer, with a focus on sports betting content. His specialties include sportsbook reviews and betting tips. A keen football fan, he also loves analysing and writing about the beautiful game.
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