Rick’s Sports Betting: All Roads And Jumps Courses Lead To Cheltenham – 0y Rick Elliott
The jumps season runs for 12 months and the final day at the end of April is immediately followed by the start of the next campaign. However, the core season runs from late October to April but the sport is dominated by four days. The Cheltenham Festival continues to grow but other races have suffered. Its importance means horses are targeted at the major races so there are fewer clashes during the rest of the season. The Grand National meeting at Aintree is now more important than in the past but Cheltenham in the March is still the meeting that matters most.
Late October sees the first fixture at the home of National Hunt racing and the first time Aintree has raced since the summer. The Betfair Chase takes place at Haydock at the end of November and there are big Saturday races over jumps from the start of November until the turn of the year. However, the championship races for hurdlers and chasers over a variety of distances are run over the four days of the Cheltenham Festival. Ante post betting is available for most races but this type of betting is fraught with danger until bookmakers offer non-runner/no bet.
The waters are muddied by the fact that horses can have more than one potential target. The expansion of the meeting to four days means there are more opportunities and options. For example, the Ryanair Chase has Grade 1 status and some horses contest it instead of the Gold Cup. There are now more lucrative races for mares which have had a detrimental affect on the Champion Hurdle. The number of Graded races has increased but the stock of horses has not kept pace. The net result is some horses appearing in the ante post markets for more than one Cheltenham race.
Willie Mullins always has horses that are viable contenders for more than one race and he tends to make late decisions. His horses owned by Rich Ricci are generally kept apart and Douvan for example has had more than one potential target in the past. If a horse prominent in the betting is withdrawn late in the day the whole ante post market is turned upside down. There is now little incentive to bet on future festival races because the backed horse could be targeted at another race. Gordon Elliott and Gigginstown Stud make multiple entries that can distort ante post betting.
The landscape becomes easier to navigate when bookmakers offer no runner/no bet for races at Cheltenham. The concession usually applies to the four championship races first but during February some bookmakers introduce the offer for every race at the festival. The concession means stakes are returned for any bets placed on horses that are withdrawn from the named race. You can back a horse safe in the knowledge that if it becomes a non-runner you get your money back. In such a competitive environment the guarantee is appearing earlier in the year which is good news for ante post punters. Final running plans are less significant once the offer applies.
Over the five months at the end of the year and start of the next year every impressive trial sees the horse touted for Cheltenham. Bookmakers and the racing Press fuel ante post interest but taking fancy prices could be false economy if you don’t get a run. It’s best to wait until non runners become no bets in the few weeks before the Cheltenham Festival in March.