But I’m fascinated by the amount of time invested in trying to find winners at Cheltenham in March. “1 of 237,000” might be the result of a Google search for ‘Festival Previews’. There are books, blogs, YouTube videos, RUK and ATR specials, stable visits. Some punters plan days to set aside for form study, and to what end?
I can’t recall the last time I studied form for a Cheltenham bet. Most of my betting is ante-post, seeking value about horses I know well, or ones I suspect will prove to be much better than they’ve shown. Come Tuesday, I don’t want to be scrabbling to pick winners; I’d rather relax and enjoy four days of superb racing.
One thing that has held strong in Festival after Festival, is that previous winners, or horses who have run really well there, have a fine chance of doing so again. The excellent Timeform guru Simon Rowlands breaks the figures down to prove the case for this ‘system’. For those who want to avoid the labour of ploughing through acres of print and horse of video – Simon’s study is the one for you.
The study is based on the previous 4 Festivals. Here’s a quote from it:
The 78 horses returning having won at the previous Festival were successful in 20 races, more than three times what could be expected by chance…
Why should horses repeatedly run well at the Festival? Well, many are simply classy horses. But many more are handicappers. Trainers prime their horses for the Festival – true. Course winners always have an advantage? Applying this assumption across all courses would, I think, find you in the grubber after four days.
My guess is that the key to this system is a combination of the track and the way races are run here. You could send out the same field, in the same conditions in January and you’d get a different result. At the Festival, races are invariably run at a hotter pace than they would be at any other time on this track or any track. To the jockeys, this meeting is everything. Adrenaline and desire push them all to go a stride faster in every race than they normally would. 60,000 bawling throats in the stands urge them on. The best horse does not always win, but the one who likes the pace at which these races are run on this unique track, the animals unfazed by crowds and brass bands and keyed-up jocks and anxious starters…these are the horses to concentrate on.
A very successful punter from the past – it might have been Pittsburgh Phil – I can’t remember, said something like: ‘I never started making money from betting until I stopped comparing horses to their rivals and started comparing them with themselves.’ Wise words. Under what conditions does a horse perform to its best? If you can replicate those conditions, all else being equal, the horses have a great chance of replicating their performance.
Perhaps Rod Street and his team at Great British Racing, should campaign for jocks on such horses to wear a big sign on the back of their silks: ‘Been here. Done that. Got the trophy.’ Failing that, the Racing Post offers a very helpful daily summary of runners returning from past Festivals.
Make the best of it.
I will post one or two tips next week, if something looks outstanding value. But you could do an awful lot worse than just back these Festival lovers and sit back and enjoy the show.