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A Brief History of the Cheltenham Festival

/ January 14, 2021
A Brief History of the Cheltenham Festival

A Betting Guide

The Cheltenham Festival has long been one of the biggest and most prestigious events in UK National Hunt horse racing, generating more than £4 million in prize money. 

However, it’s also helpful for those interested in Gold Cup betting to be well-versed in their Cheltenham Festival history, not least so that they can gain the maximum insight into the patterns of winners and the types of horses that tend to perform well in the various weathers. It’s also important that you know what to expect and what to look out for at the Cheltenham festival.

The Good Old Days

There seems to be disagreement as to when the first Cheltenham Festival took place – indeed, the earliest traceable reference to a “Festival” is in the Warwick Advertiser of 1907. 


However, there have been horse races in Cheltenham for about 200 years, with the first recorded flat racing meeting being held on Nottingham Hill in 1815. These were tentatively staged races about which little is known and it took until three years later – on Tuesday 25th August 1818 – for another meeting to take place, this time on Cleeve Hill, which overlooks the present site of Cheltenham Racecourse. 

The event featured five races, with the first recorded winner being Mr E. Jones’s five-year-old mare, Miss Tidmarsh. Even back in those early days, the course clearly favoured youngish mares, and the following year saw proper stadium seating erected and a three-mile course for three-year-olds as part of the Gold Cup. 

In the following decades, attendance rose to 50,000 or more each year, but by 1856 the event had died out. It wasn't until the last decade of the 19th century that the races became famous again.

Using History to Ensure Success

Certain past factors do make a difference in terms of which horses and jockeys are most likely to win, so it’s highly recommended to follow the most recent three-year history of Cheltenham Festival and make detailed notes. By paying particular attention to the ultra tough handicaps, you can get a sense of which runners outperformed the bare result and may therefore be well-placed to succeed this time. 

How to ensure betting success

If you are a newcomer to Cheltenham Festival betting, it may be tempting to go for the same “bankers” and “certainties” that everyone else seems to go for – the “superstars” that are often unbeaten, but may have only defeated a small number of horses in slowly run races on much softer ground. Those who know their Cheltenham Festival history will realise that these top trainers and horses are often best avoided. 

One other thing to be aware of is that in an age of misinformation, the Cheltenham rumour mill tends to turn more relentlessly than at almost any other meeting during the year. It can therefore be easy to be thrown by that overemphasised minor problem or embellished tale. There may be occasional times when such stories are proved right, but much more often, they have little veracity or effect on the result, so it’s generally best to ignore the whispers and focus more on the overall form book. 

The Trends Shown by Repeat Winners

While the number of horses to have won the Gold Cup over the years makes for an extensive list, bookmakers for Cheltenham events will always offer lower odds on horses that have won the event previously. A quick look at the form guide of horses that have won repeat events shows some clear trends: 

  • Ridden by the same jockey - people who know nothing about Cheltenham races betting will assume that it's the horse that wins, not the jockey. Those in the know will be looking at the name of the jockey and their relationship with the horse as a guide to form. Best Mate was ridden by the same jockey during his triple victories between 2002 and 2004.
  • Over six years old - while it started off as a race for younger horses, it tends to be the older, more experienced animals that win the races in the modern era. Long Run, back in 2011, was the only exception, being the youngest winner since 1963.
  • Irish breeding - it's not an over-generalisation to say that Irish horses have a high-quality racing pedigree. You only need to look at the hat trick of wins by Arkle in the ‘60s and Cottage Rake in ‘40s to see that bookmakers will give you good prices on Irish winners.

Take Advantage of the Best Cheltenham Betting Offers

Armed with a bit of competition history, you should be able to find the right odds at both online betting sites and bookmakers around the Cheltenham racecourse itself. Horse betting sites will be able to give you a much wider range of markets and offers and we would particularly advise you to look out for trifecta bets and bonuses on accumulators over the course of a few races.

It’s a good idea to set up a number of bookmaker accounts in readiness for the Cheltenham Festival, so that you can get the best possible price for the contender on which you fancy a flutter. With Cheltenham being one of the most anticipated meetings of the year, bookies are sure to offer a host of great odds, offers and race enhancements, so there may never be a better time to compare reviews of the leading bookmakers at Top 10 Sports Betting Sites.


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