An iconic photo of Secretariat
An iconic photo of Secretariat
Two-year-old or juvenile races, especially those staged early in the season, tend to feature unraced or lightly-raced horses, about which the betting public knows very little. Typically, the only useful information available is the pedigree of the horse in question, its purchase price, the weight it is due to carry, its trainer, its jockey, its current or likely odds and, if the horse has raced, limited form.
However, the pedigree of a young horse can be informative with regard to distance and going preferences and precocity, or otherwise, while its purchase price, although hardly definitive, is usually a fairly reliable guide to its potential. Some sires are well-known as sources of precocious, speedy youngsters and it’s also worth remembering that, logically, a two-year-old foaled in the early months of the year will be more mature, physically, than one born later.
Similarly, some trainers, including Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston, are renowned for their strong record with juveniles, early-season or otherwise, and it’s worth keeping an eye on their runners, especially if the subject of market support. Indeed, if you’re considering an unraced two-year-old, unless you’re privy to ‘inside’ information, which isn’t in the public domain, the betting market may be your only guide to its chances.
If a two-year-old has already raced, speed ratings, such as Topspeed ratings in the Racing Post, can help you to identify a potentially smart youngster before the level of its ability becomes public knowledge. If an inexpensive juvenile with unfashionable connections records a persuasive speed rating, don’t be afraid to back it against newcomers from major yards, who’ll need to be above-average ability, and forward enough, to beat it. Likewise, an expensive juvenile, with powerful connections, may win by a wide margin on its racecourse debut, in a slow time, but still be ‘hyped’ out of all proportion on its next start.
While some of us (me included!) love nothing more than flicking onto Racing TV and opening up a copy of the Racing Post, for others it draws a ‘meh’. That’s of course true of just about every sport though. As the old adage goes ‘horses for courses’. How very apt here. Personally I can’t stand cricket, but anyway I digress! Unlike with most sports though, there is one race in the racing calendar that holds almost universal appeal, across ages, sexes, and nations even. I am of course talking about the one and only, Grand National. It brings to mind a certain type of memory. Office sweepstakes. Picking a horse because it’s got the same name as your Nan’s budgie. Deciding which Grand National tips to follow. That savant like family member that picks the National winner every other year. Mystic Meg, eat your heart out.
It’s no surprise that this National Hunt jewel in the crown is something that the nation takes to, as it has longevity firmly in its favour. First held on 26th February 1839, when it had the somewhat less catchy name of the Grand Liverpool Steeplechase, the Grand National has been held every year since. Well, almost. Continuing through wars and IRA bomb threats alike (even though the threats did cause a delay), the race has only been cancelled, or rather declared void, once. This occurred in 1997 when there were two false starts, with the flag not being raised on the second occasion causing many of the jockeys to set off without realising. With hundreds of millions watching and 75 million pounds bet on the race, it was a disaster (and a very expensive mistake) that’s best forgotten and thankfully, has not ever been repeated since.
So with that unfortunate blip consigned to history, let’s now turn our eye to the rather futuristic sounding 2020 Grand National. While there’ll unfortunately be no Back to the Future style hover boards on display, there will however be a competitive and enthralling spectacle. Held on the 4th April, it will be edge of your seat stuff as the general public get to see if 5-1 favourite Tiger Roll has enough in the tank to repeat his achievements of 2018 and 2019 by becoming the first horse to ever win three Grand Nationals in a row (getting one over on Red Rum, who currently shares the two back to back wins record with Tiger Roll). Capable rivals are hot on his heels though. While Native River has been ruled out through injury, the likes of Burrows Saint, Kimberlite Candy and Walk in the Mill all hover at around the 9-1 – 16-1 range, with one or two bookmakers offering better prices if you ‘shop around’.
It won’t be long now before Tipsters all start throwing their hat into the ring and so it will be interesting to see what general consensus forms as the race nears. Does Tiger Roll already have it in the bag, or are people reading too much into past form as well as the fairytale ‘three in a row’ ending? Time will tell. Almost ten million people are expected to tune in, just as they did last year, and it’s free to air on ITV, as well as Racing UK and streamed via several bookmaker websites. Be there or be square!
Cheltenham Festival starts on the 10th March this year. To help you prepare, Peter Watton from OddsMonkey shares his betting tips to help you get the most out of one of the best horseracing meets in the calendar.
Cheltenham Festival takes place annually at Cheltenham Racecourse, also known as the Home of Jump Racing. In addition to witnessing some incredible horseracing, attendees can also enjoy getting dressed up and sampling a variety of entertainment, including a new area called ‘The Park’, where live DJs will provide a great atmosphere.
Whether you’ll be there or not, you might be looking forward to making a bit of money on the races that week. So, I’ll be sharing my tips to help you decide where, when, and how to place your bets.
Cheltenham Festival includes 28 races across four days. Days one and two kick off the festival with one feature race each: on Tuesday, it’s the Unibet Champion Hurdle Trophy and, on Wednesday, it’s the Betway Queen Mother Champion Steeple Chase. Day three includes two impressive Group 1 races: the Ryanair Steeple Chase and the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle.
However, Friday’s big race is the most popular and potentially profitable of all. The Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Steeple Chase, with a huge total prize fund of £625,000, will attract the best of the best in jump racing to compete over three-and-a-quarter miles, with 22 fences. So, if you’re only betting on one race that weekend, this is the one to go for.
The betting market usually opens a few weeks before a race, and before the full list of competing horses — known as the declaration — is released. That means if you like to get in there early for a chance at the best odds, you can. Odds tend to shorten the closer it gets to a race but, if you place your bets too early, you could risk your horse not running — and you won’t be able to ask for a refund. So, there are pros and cons to both approaches.
If you want to bet on the day or at the event, check to see if your chosen bookmaker is offering any refunds in the event of a non-runner. That means you’ll be covered if your horse pulls out of the race last minute.
There’s no way to tell for sure what’s going to happen in any race, and that’s part of the fun. Santini, an 8-year-old trained by Nicky Henderson, is favourite to win the Gold Cup — he’s already performed well at Cheltenham and was a runner up in the RSA Chase last year. But any of the other horses could pip him to the post, and other factors like the weather and the condition of the track can influence the outcome of a race.
When placing your bets, you can base your decision on odds alone or you can look for more information like performance history and use this to come to your own conclusion. Check out Bets and Pieces’ How to Pick a Winner in Seconds if you want to choose your horse quickly. You can also pay for advice from tipsters, who do this research for you and may have some insider knowledge to share. Of course, you can always just go for your favourite name or colour jersey and leave it up to fate, too!
Alternatively, if you’re less interested in the thrill of the race and you want to guarantee a return on your bet, you could consider matched betting instead. This takes advantage of free bets offered by bookmakers to help make sure you always make at least a small profit.
The tips in this guide can help you decide how you want to bet on the Cheltenham Festival this year. Whether you’ll be there in person or watching at home, you can get in on the fun — and hopefully make some money, too.