In October 2016 Sizing John was about 100/1 to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup the following March. It was any offer One For Arthur to win the Grand National and shrewd punters would have made a killing. However, overall ante post betting is fraught with danger and often goes wrong.
During the 2015-16 jumps season Rick Elliott, a colleague at Betfan, built up an ante post portfolio for the Cheltenham Festival. Of the 10 horses he backed only 3 actually ran in their specified races and throughout the season everything that could go wrong did. Once bitten twice shy, Rick says.
The downside of backing horses in ante post markets is that if the horse does not run it’s a losing bet. From the previous September you can bet on the Classics but eight months is a lifetime for a young horse. In 2013 Rule The World won the Derby but did not appear on the track as a two-year-old.
Betting on future Flat races is harder than over jumps. There could be 30 juveniles at Aidan O’Brien’s stable so anticipating the best one is a big ask. Some could be slow, have a poor attitude or get injured. Horses develop from two to three and the winter favourite for the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas does not always run.
National Hunt racing is different in that horses run for many years. It doesn’t take Einstein to work out that Sizing John will be targeted at the Gold Cup. Assuming no injuries the horse will be back at Cheltenham next March.
When backing a horse well ahead of a race the key questions are will you get a run and will the horse start at a shorter price? The incentive to bet ante post is better odds than on the day. However, that is not always the case. In fact horses often drift in the betting during the season.
There are some horses that have more than one target and horses under the same ownership are campaigned as a team. Rich Ricci always has a strong team at the Festival with multiple entries and often makes late calls. Willie Mullins gives nothing away so why back one of his ante post?
Vroum Vroum Mag is a great horse but has about six potential Festival targets over hurdles and fences. The horse is 40/1 to win the Gold Cup and 10/1 to win the Mares Hurdle. So the horse could run in the Blue Riband chase or a hurdle for females. The odds are attractive but one bet is already a loser.
Cheltenham is a huge meeting for the betting industry and it’s highly competitive. Free bets are used as marketing tools but the non-runner/no bet concession is good for business. You have got a chance with ante post betting when you get your money back for a non-runner. However, you have to wait until early March when that rule is first applied.
Forty eight hour declarations will apply across the board at the Cheltenham Festival in 2018. Bookmakers who still keep stakes on non-runners until the final declarations will have to return betting funds if a horse is withdrawn after being declared. That gives punters a chance and means taking an early price results in the best odds.
There is a distinction between ante post betting and morning or board price betting. You take your chances with the former but several leading bookmakers now offer Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG). High Roller Racing suggests you bet with bookmakers who pay out on non-runners some time before the relevant race and offer BOG.
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