DO back Willie Mullins. He wins lots of races. Six in 2021, seven in 2020, eight in 2015.

He has been leading trainer at the meeting eight times in the last 11 years and, with 77 more winners to go with his first, Tourist Attraction in 1995, he has won more races at the Cheltenham Festival than any other trainer ever.

He has had at least three winners at every Cheltenham Festival since 2011, and he has had at least two at every Festival since 2008.

It is also worth keeping in mind that 51 of his 78 winners were novices, and that he has won 15 of the 21 mares’ races at the Festival.

Do back Irish-trained horses. They win lots of races too. These days they do anyway.

In contrast to 1989, when they won none, they won 23 of the 28 races last year and, if two short-heads had gone the other way, they would have won 25 races and British-trained horses would have won three.

And there was strength in-depth last year. The one-two-three in the Gold Cup, the one-two-three in the Ryanair Chase, the one-two-four in the Champion Hurdle, the one-two-four-five in the Stayers’ Hurdle, the one-three in the Champion Chase.

This year, an Irish-trained horse is either favourite or joint-favourite for 23 of the 28 races, and there is strength in-depth again, even in the races in which a British-trained horse is favourite.

Sir Gerhard (or Dysart Dynamo) and Kilcruit and Mighty Potter behind Constitution Hill in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Energumene and Chacun Pour Soi behind Shishkin in the Champion Chase, Blue Lord and Riviere D’Etel and Haut En Couleurs and Saint Sam and Magic Daze and now Gabynako behind Edwardstone in the Arkle.

Take on

And don’t be afraid to take on Edwardstone in the Arkle. He has looked impressive in his last four races, and he is a super jumper, but he has beaten a total of 16 rivals in those four races at Sandown and Kempton and Warwick twice, an average of four per race.

He will face a very different type of test in the Arkle, at Cheltenham, where he is zero for three over hurdles. Rated 150 over hurdles after nine runs, he is eight years old now, and only Moscow Flyer and Sizing Europe have won the Arkle as an eight-year-old in the last 30 years.

He is obviously a high-class novice, but, even in the absence of Ferny Hollow and Appreciate It, he is short in an Arkle that is more competitive than suggested by odds of 2/1 about the favourite.

Don’t be lured by the this-will-win-lads syndrome. The short-ones-are-certainties disorder. The if-you-want-to-win-more-just-have-more-on condition.

Of course, some of the short ones will probably win, and some of the short ones are value at present even at short odds, but do know that, just because they are short, it doesn’t mean that they will win.

Do seek out the value. A 25/1 shot is not value just because it is a 25/1 shot. You can argue that Honeysuckle is value at 4/7, or that Allaho is value at 4/6.

Do be sure that, when you bet, you are comfortable that you are betting at odds that are greater than what you determine true odds to be.


Do pace yourself. It’s a long week. And do be selective in your betting. You don’t have to bet on every race. Some races – like the Champion Hurdle or the Champion Chase – might be more enjoyable to watch and savour if you do not have a financial involvement.

And do stake your bets logically. You can back a horse each-way in the Kim Muir that you happened to see running at Newbury one day if you want, without too much depth of thought, and you might get lucky, but why would your stake on him be the same as your stake on the horse that you have had in mind for the Arkle since last year?

Do try to place all (or at least most of) your bets in the morning, before racing starts, at the latest.

As well as the week being long, the days are also long. Best to decide on your general betting strategy and on your specific bets in the cold light of morning, with the day stretching out in front of you, when you have a clear idea in your head of the relative strengths and value of the bets you are about to place, and can make informed decisions accordingly.

Better that than trying to make betting and staking decisions in the afternoon, in the middle of the volatility of the race day, and influenced by wins or losses in previous races and/or by accomplices and/or consumption patterns.

Novice is no handicap

Do look twice at novices in the handicap chases. Four of the last eight winners of the Ultima, six of the last 13 winners of the Grand Annual, four of the last five winners of the Plate and five of the last nine winners of the Kim Muir were novices.

Do look for specials. There will be a plethora of them on Tuesday morning, a lot of them focussing on the opening race, the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Get the punters in early and get them rolling through the week. Do take advantage of those special offers if you can.

Do look for advantageous each-way terms. The handicaps with 16 runners or more are good each-way races even at 1/4 the odds a place the first four, but 1/5 the odds a place the first five is slightly better statistically, and if you can get six or seven or even eight places (think golf terms on the eve of the Open), then even better.

Do bet within your means. Do enjoy it. Do know that it’s a special week.