To celebrate the fun and excitement of the Cheltenham Festival, the author of our Horse Racing Manual, racing journalist Tom Peacock, shares his best tips for picking a horse, placing a bet and looking the part.
01 Stick with course form
Looking at horses which have run well at the Cheltenham Festival before is vitally important, as you know that they cope with the intense atmosphere as well as the challenges of the track. On the racecard, ‘CD’ denotes that the horse has previously won on the same course over the same distance, and these horses are always worth a look.
02 Shop around
This is racing’s biggest gambling event of the year and bookmakers are clamouring for your money. When stepping into the betting ring, wander around the pitches looking at the prices of the horses, as the chances are your selection will be bigger odds with different bookies. The same goes if betting online – prices change continually, and you are likely to find better odds on some sites than others.
03 Win or each-way?
The most difficult decision when placing a bet. An each-way bet means you have half your bet on a horse to win, and the other half on it to finish placed - so betting £5 each-way involves a £10 investment. Generally speaking, it depends on how confident you are and the odds of the horse. If your selection is at least 12-1, it is worth betting each-way as you can look forward to a reasonable payout if it places.
04 Go to the paddock
The great advantage of being at the races over watching on TV is that you can see the horses in the flesh. Study them walking around the paddock for signs of wellbeing before the race, looking for those with shiny coats and a relaxed temperament, rather than those who are over-excited, fidgety or sweating. If watching on TV, commentators will often point these things out prior to the race, so keep your ears open!
05 Dress practically
There is no excuse not to be smart at Cheltenham, but do remember that we are not into the summer months yet. Tweed never goes out of fashion here, and earthy colours, hats and boots are much more sensible than thin dresses or linen suits.