Cheltenham | A Handy 'How To' Guide | DOs and DONTs

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Cheltenham | A Handy 'How To' Guide | DOs and DONTs

The Greatest Show on Turf” is an expression bandied about far too often in the world of sports. Everything from the stateside Superbowl to the Portmerrion Lawn Tennis Casuals want a slice of this coveted accolade. However, ask any racing fan either side of the Irish Sea and beyond what the greatest show on turf is and you’ll be met with one unified response; the Cheltenham Festival. From the famous roar to placing a lucky 63, we've got you covered in our handy 'How To' guide to Cheltenham. 

Horse Racing



The Cheltenham Festival 2017

March the 14th marks this year’s kick off for the annual pilgrimage to the Cotswolds town, and as usual, hundreds of millions of pounds are expected to change hands between punters and bookmakers across the UK and Ireland.

The coverted Stan James Champion Hurdle is contested on day one and this grade one race is the most prestigious hurdling event in the National Hunt calenar. Its list of winners features many of the most highly acclaimed hurdlers in the sport's history, and several of these, such as National Spirit, Istabraq, Hatton's Grace, Persian War and Lanzarote, subsequently having had races named in their honour. Yanworth heads the betting in this year's field, but StanJames' Racing Ambassador Nicky Henderson will fancy his runners Buveur D'air, Brain Power, and My Tent or Yours to have a say in proceedings. 

So, if you’re new to horse racing, we’ve outlined a few jargon busting pointers to help you navigate one of the busiest punting weeks of the year.

Typical Bet Types 

Win. You’re feeling confident, this horse is going to win the race and there’s no point even considering any other possible outcome. This is bet is also known as ‘on the nose’.

Do – When your horse has jumped the last fence with a clear lead and only an act of God would prevent it from winning, remain magnanimous in victory and simply mutter something humble such as, ‘Yes, it was difficult to see anything beating that really, an obvious selection...’ 

Don’t – Scream, wild eyed, at the television, imploring the jockey to ‘Whip him! Kick him! What’s the matter with you man?!’’ when it is obvious to all that your horse has gallantly run his race and is now busy backpedalling through the field with other beaten horses for company. Albeit a common sight up and down the land, this is not the done thing.

Each-way. It’s a big field, and even the favourite’s odds will return a profit if it places, so you split your stake in two and have half on the win, half of the place. Assuming your horse can go close, you’re likely to win something here, surely? This bet is also known as ‘win and place’. The place part will be a proportion of the win odds, typically 1/4 at the Festival.

 Do – Take advantage of our 'happy hour' specials (see Twitter (@stanjamesracing) and other Cheltenham Specials, such as when we pay an extra place, the first five instead of first four. Big race days such as the Festival can be rich pickings for selective punters and mathematically, an extra place is a huge edge on an each-way bet.

Don’t – Re-double the volume of your desperate, red-faced pleas to the jockey when you realise that having looked a live chance two furlongs out, you’re now grimly battling for the last paying place, and a quarter of the odds is the very best you can hope for. This vision is a credit to absolutely no-one.

Placepot. The Festival is famous for some enormous placepot dividends. Your job is to correctly select at least one horse to place in each of the first six races, which is somewhat harder than it sounds.

Do  – Your maths! Putting more than one selection in a leg multiplies the cost of your original stake. For example, picking two runners for all six legs at a £1 stake would cost you £64! However, you can stake as little as you like per line assuming it makes a minimum of £2 in total.

Do (ii) - Try and avoid favourites where you think you can. These are ‘pool’ bets which means that correctly swimming against the community tide can reap significant rewards. In a nutshell, the more favourites that don’t place, the bigger the payout is likely to be. This makes it much tougher of course.

These are the most popular bets, but you'll come across such exotic phrases and terms during the four days: Yankees, Trixies and Goliaths are all part of the bettors lexicon. When you place a bet, our system will automatically caluclate the total cost for you, but if you're interested in working out the stakes and cost before, then don't forget to use our helpful BET CALCULATOR. It breaks down a goliath into small, bit-sized chunks that everyoine can easily digest and understand.    

Tips and Information:

In such a busy and high profile week of racing, everyone will have an opinion of the likely winners. They could be Festival bankers or handicap blots, listening to everyone will only end up in disaster as you realise that you’ve backed every single runner in the first race, including plenty that haven’t even lined up at the start, effectively locking in a loss before racing has even started.

So where can you find reliable sources of tips and information? The Racing Post (the paper for everything, or online for slightly less) for a taste of what’s broadly recognised as the industry standard, or there are many online sites such as that are peppered with easy to follow form guides for each runner and race, as well as straight forward betting suggestions. Tabloids are generally a no-no and the ‘man down the pub’ is generally a buffoon. 

However, you might also like to take a look at what's under your nose:  

Placing a bet at StanJames

Whenever you load a race, you'll be presented with the following, which is a wealth of information... 

The meeting and race time are highlighted. You then have five icons at the top:

Statistics STATISTICS:  By clicking here you'll open a new window, that has lots of information about the horse, trainer and jockey. We'll explain these below!

Results A quick and handy 'RESULTS' service, perfect for checking if you've picked a winner!

Commentary COMMENTARY: you can listen to the race, perfect if you're on the move!

Race Predictor Race PREDICTOR: This is a handy source of information for people new to Cheltenham. It will predict the race based on previous results and form. You'll notice that upon clicking here you're also offered tabs such as Naps and Tips, Hot and Not and Snapshot, which are handy as they provide information on how the majority are betting, their tips and reasons for them and who's currently leading the betting. Sometimes the majority are right!

You'll note that there is also a 'Race Overview'. This provides a brief bio of the contenders for each race and will usually recount previous races between runners. Only a fool will overlook the overview as there are often some gems of information hidden away in there! 

Horse Racing

Connections of note:

Festival bankers – If you’re looking for a trainer to trust with a short priced Festival banker, Willie Mullins, in particular when combining with top jockey, Ruby Walsh, is about as good as you’re going to get. Even though the market is well aware of this and it is reflected in the invariably short price, his strike rate with his 'good things' at Cheltenham is still above the expected, based on starting price (odds at the off) alone. However, given his recent withdrawals, Nicky Henderson is also bullish about his chances, and have a whole host Nicky Henderson Cheltenham Specials

Handicap blots – It is true that such is the quality on offer at the Festival these days, sneaking a horse into the bottom of the handicap (ie carrying a low weight) is fraught with danger lest you miss the cut completely, however trainers David Pipe (following in his father’s footsteps) and more recently Nicky Henderson and Jonjo O’Neill are consistently making the handicaps pay for punters.

Ones to watch – In terms of big name trainers, the Cheltenham Festival has always been a bit of a numbers game, and unsurprisingly the stables with the most ammo end up taking home the spoils. But from a punters’ point of view, selectivity may be the order of the day. The well targeted approach of Colin Tizzard, Gordon Elliot and Jonjo O’Neill doesn’t leave much behind when it comes to homing in on winning opportunities from a ‘profits’ standpoint.

Inside track - We've saved the best til last! The Stan James racing ambassador, trainer Nicky Henderson, has spoken highly of the chances of three of his runners in particular: Check out his videos, here: 

For more information from the 'KING OF CHELTENHAM' check out our EXCLUSIVE NICKY HENDERSON BLOG - The Road to Cheltenham - it's crammed full of top tips and analysis!


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