Bookies braced for Cheltenham betting bonanza

UK bookmakers are bracing themselves for a record breaking Cheltenham Festival this year. The meeting runs from March 10th to 13th with punters expected to gamble in excess of half a billion pounds over the four-day meeting.

The Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the jumps racing season in Great Britain and Ireland with 28 top class races totalling over £4.5 million in prize money. The festival accounts for more than half of the top forty betting races in the UK in terms of turnover. So where can we expect to see the smart money go at Cheltenham 2020?

Epatante favourite for Champion Hurdle

The Champion Hurdle is the feature race on the opening day with leading owner J.P. McManus chasing a record ninth win in the race. Trainer Nicky Henderson is only one behind him and they team up with ante-post favourite Epatante. She was a 33-1 outsider at the start of the season but those odds were slashed following her impressive win in the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.

There has also been a very strong market move for Henderson’s Shishkin in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He put an early season fall behind him to register easy victories at Newbury and Huntingdon and will probably start even shorter than his current odds of 3-1.

Ireland has won 10 of the 12 renewals of the Mares’ Hurdle and has the two market leaders this year in Benie Des Dieux and Honeysuckle. Connections of both horses are considering a tilt at the Champion Hurdle as an alternative so punters should make sure they bet only “with a run”.

Altior aiming for fifth Cheltenham Festival win

Henderson will also be the focus of attention on day 2 with star chaser Altior going for his third successive Champion Chase and fifth festival success. His record unbeaten run of 19 races came to an end over a longer distance at Ascot in November. The ten-year-old successfully reverted to his optimum trip of two miles at Newbury in February.

Steeplechase scene black whiteAltior faces stiff opposition in Defi Du Seuil and Chacun Pour Soi but is certain to attract huge public support.You can get a comprehensive guide to every race at the festival and free Cheltenham Tips at the OLBG website. This long-established site hosts a thriving racing forum as well as providing interesting statistics, betting trends and pointers.

Henderson has yet another leading Cheltenham contender in Champ, as short as 7-2 favourite for the RSA Chase despite falling on his last start. Envoi Allen is rated by many as the Irish banker bet of the meeting in the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle. Many punters will be keen to double him up with the Willie Mullins-trained Appreciate It in the Champion Bumper, a race the trainer has won a record 9 times.

A spectacular day’s racing could be capped by Tiger Roll, the winner of the Aintree Grand National for the past two seasons. He is favourite to win the Cross Country Chase for a third successive season.

Paisley Park expected to dominate Stayers’ Hurdle

Paisley Park is the shortest priced favourite of the weekin the Stayers’ Hurdle on day 3. He is unbeaten in seven races and has won his prep races with the minimum of fuss.Sire Du Berlais landed one of the biggest gambles of the week in the Pertemps Network Final 12 months’ ago. He caught the eye when qualifying at Warwick this season and it would be no surprise to see him start shorter than his current odds of 8-1.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday is the climax of the meeting, won last year by 12-1 chance Al Boum Photo. He is a general 4-1 favourite to become the first horse since Best Mate (2002-2004) to retain his crown. Delta Work and Kemboy, first and second in the Irish Gold Cup, give the raiding party a very strong hand again this year.

On a cautionary note, the final day of the meeting in 2019 proved to be a bonanza for bookmakers with winners at 66-1, 50-1 and 20-1. Only Hazel Hill in the Foxhunter Chase prevented a whitewash for favourite backers.

By Harvey Mayson

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Rich Nilsen is an 18-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. Rich was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com and a member of the NHC Players’ Committee, Rich is a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program and is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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