For the horse racing purist, there is surely no better place to bet on the Cheltenham Festival, in 2018, than the floor of the betting ring at Prestbury Park. The Cheltenham Festival is, undoubtedly, the most important National Hunt meeting of the year, and draws huge attendances, well in excess of 50,000, on each of the four days.
Make sure you arrive in plenty of time – at least half an hour before the “off” – if you’re having a bet in the first race and be prepared to push your way through the throng in the betting ring to bet at the best odds available for your selection. Be prepared, too, to experience the famous Cheltenham roar first hand. As the tapes go up for the first race, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, a boisterous clamour, which will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, reverberates around the racecourse as spectators give voice to their nervous energy.
Of course, the “cut and thrust” of the betting ring isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, most of the races at the Cheltenham Festival are shown live on terrestrial television and all of them are streamed live on numerous bookmakers’ sites, if you’re prepared to bet £1 or £2 a race for the privilege. In fact, live streaming of all 27 races is not the only good reason for opening an account with an online bookmaker before, or during, the Cheltenham Festival.
Bookmakers, being bookmakers, are well aware of the popularity of the Festival and will go out of their way to attract new business during the four days. It can be hard to keep up to date with the latest offers. I vividly remember Coral offering Sprinter Sacre at even money, albeit to a maximum stake of £20, to new customers ahead of the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Sprinter Sacre duly won, by 19 lengths, at odds of 1/4, without ever coming off the bridle, so Coral had effectively given away £20 to each new customer and you’ll come across similar, seemingly daft, but highly lucrative offers every time the Festival rolls around. It’s still January and Paddy Power are already offering “non-runner, no bet” on the Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, the World Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Several websites keep track of the Cheltenham Festival offerings from a swathe of bookmakers, so you don’t have to. It’s worth keeping an eye on these as March 13 draws closer, because some of the offers available are, frankly, unbelievable.