Cheltenham 2018: Five Dark Horses for the Savvy Punter

Cheltenham Festival 2018
The Cheltenham Festival is now less than a month away and punters are excitedly studying the form ahead of the prestigious National Hunt meeting. The March Festival is one of the biggest betting events of the year and it always sees armchair fans lump on the favourites as they buy into the hype. But at Cheltenham the fields are deep and stacked with talent, so the favourite wins less than 30% of the time, and it typically pays to seek out the longer priced outsiders that could spring a surprise. Here are five each-way shots that have a good chance of upsetting the odds at Cheltenham:

Definitely Red

Might Bite is the clear favourite to win the Gold Cup after romping to victory in the King George VI on Boxing Day, while defending champion Sizing John is given the best chance of usurping him. But there is plenty of talent in this superstar field, and Definitely Red stands out at as a brilliant longer shot when you take a look at the spread betting lines. In Cheltenham’s only Gold Cup trial, the Cotswold Chase, he beat American by eight lengths, and trainer Brian Ellison believes he now has a great chance in the most prestigious jumps race of the year. He said: “The Gold Cup is quite open. Might Bite is favourite but I don't think the form of the King George looks that strong. Red has every chance and could be overpriced.” The nine-year-old has won his last two races and is being lined up for a Grand National tilt, but first he will aim to dazzle at Cheltenham.

Melon

It is hard to look past defending champion Buveur d’Air in the Champion Hurdle as he has not lost since 2015 and is in magnificent form. But there is real competition for the places and Melon looks like he could well be in the mix, despite odds of 20/1. He won the Grade 2 WKD Hurdle in November, but has since lost out to Cheltenham contenders Supasundae and My Tent Or Yours. He has struggled in elite company recently, but has two second place finishes in Grade 1 contests at Cheltenham and Leopardstown under his belt and he will be a dangerous opponent in the main event on the first day of the Festival. Melon is a big, strong horse and if he reaches his full potential he can certainly be in the conversation as the runners charge up the final hill in the Champion Hurdle.

Wholestone

Many are predicting a straight fight between Supasundae and Sam Spinner in the Stayers’ Hurdle, but write off Wholestone at your peril. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ brown gelding features twice in Timeform’s list of the top 10 hurdle performances this season, as does Sam Spinner. They met in Chepstow in October, when Sam Spinner finished second and Wholestone was fourth, but Wholestone was the better horse at the weights. He has run really well on good ground, so if the rain holds off next month Wholestone will be in with a great chance of upsetting the favourites.

Ballyoptic

Another runner from the Twiston-Davies stable, Ballyoptic, looks like an intriguing dark horse for an open RSA Chase. Presenting Percy and Monalee are the current favourites, but this race is anyone’s and Ballyoptic is attracting some ante post action. He was last seen winning the Grade 2 Towton Novices’ Chase at Wetherby on February 3, and he secured an impressive 13-length victory at Exeter in the autumn. He is economical and well measured at the fences and seems to improve as races develop, so he will be a strong contender at the March Festival.

Cloudy Dream

Ruth Jefferson’s Cloudy dream was outstayed by Gold Cup hopeful Native River in this month’s Denman Chase at Newbury, and she instantly withdrew him from Gold Cup contention and pointed him at the Ryanair Chase. That drop back in trip to 2 miles and 5 furlongs should suit his strengths, and he is also likely to improve on spring ground. Cloudy Dream has had 11 races over fences, and he has won three and finished runner-up eight times. This season he has finished second in all four races, so he looks a great each-way shout at 16/1 in the Ryanair Chase.

Author bio
Martin Green is an experienced horse racing correspondent and tipster and has been covering the Cheltenham Festival for many years.


Weather to Bet or Not

Snow on Christmas Day
Betting. Where does it start or end? I'm talking sports rather than financial loss or gain. 

Every sport seems to have a betting angle. However, thinking about it, it doesn't have to be a sport to bet, hey? 

You may want to know the betting odds about something happening. That must be more varied than any sports. It must cover millions of things. One such happening is our fascination with the weather.

I guess the only time we hear about punters sticking their hand deep in their pocket regards the likelihood of a white Christmas. Snow on Christmas day to be precise. I can't say I've ever bet on snow falling, a rainbow leading to a pot of gold or a hailstone measuring the  size of a tennis ball. Perhaps I should.

Have you ever met anyone who bets on the weather? 

I haven't. 

I remember watching a program on TV with a meteorologist who knew more about the weather than your average Joe. The word meteorologist actually refers to a study of the atmosphere. They use science and maths to predict weather and climate. 

Interesting. Perhaps. I know most people in the UK love talking about the weather. 

So what do most weather-betting fans bet on? 

Temperature markets. Betting on the prediction for the temperature for a given month. This may be an exact prediction, a range. Generally, we are talking the high temperatures in summer and the lowest in winter. Other bets relate to rainfall. 

It is surprising to hear but internet betting on the weather is more popular than imagined. 

Grand National 2018: The Housewife's Favourite

Grand National 2018
Who doesn't love a bet on the Grand National?

As the saying goes: it's the housewife's favourite. Betting on a name that catches your eye, those pink silks look like a winner, lucky number 7, didn't that horse win last year?

This year's Grand National 2018 

5:15 Aintree - Randox Health Grand National Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (Class 1)

One horse who could be a real player this year is Blaklion trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies. This nine-year-old bay gelding is a son of Kayf Tara. He won last time out at Aintree in heavy going. With total prize winning of almost £400,000 this horse will be many a punter's fancy. Fill your boots at Williamhill who presently have this horse priced at odds of 10/1. A worth each-way bet. 

A little Grand National Trivia

This historic handicap steeplechase is run over 4 mile 4 furlong at Aintree and sponsored by Crabbie's. 

It was first run in 1839. The Grand National is televised in 140 countries and viewed by an audience of 600 million. 

Horses jump 30 fences including Bechers' Brook, Foinavon, the Canal Turn & The Chair over two grueling circuits. 

The Greatest Horse

Red Rum is a true legend of this race winning three times in the 1970s. Trained by the late Ginger McCain, he won the Grand National in 1973, 1974 & 1977. He finished second in 1975 & 1976. 

The Luckiest Winner

Foinavon proved that you sometimes you need a little bit of luck when winning in 1967. This 100/1 was lagging 100 yards behind the pack when a loose horse named Popham Down caused mayhem at the 23rd fence hampering or unseating most of the field. Foinavon had time to steer round the havoc and none of the opposition had time to catch him.

The Most Humbling Victory 

Few people will ever forget Bob Champion's win in 1981 aboard Aldantini. Two years before this race, Champion had been given only months to live after being diagnosed with cancer. Aldaniti had recovered from chronic leg problems but the pair went on to beat SpartanMissile by four and half lengths in an emotional victory. Their story was made into a film, Champions, starring John Hurt.

Grand National Records:

Mr Frisk (1990) 8 minute 48 seconds (Fastest winner)

Peter Simple (1853) 15 years (Oldest winning horse)
Bruce Hobbs (1938) 17 years old (Youngest winning jockey)
5 horses have won at 100/1 (Longest winning odds)
(1929) 66 runners (Largest field)

(1883) 10 runners (Smallest field)


Whatever you bet on the big day, good luck. 

Blue Diamond Stakes Preview

Blue Diamond Stakes PreviewThe countdown has begun for the Grade 1 Blue Diamond Stakes and several leading two-year-olds are in contention for the richest juvenile’s race of the autumn. A cool $1.5 million is on offer for this contest and it has attracted an extremely strong field after the third declaration stage. They are bidding to follow in the footsteps of recent winners like Catchy, Extreme Choice and Pride of Dubai, and whoever seizes the win will be catapulted to superstardom. Here are the leading contenders for glory:
Plague Stone
The James Cummings-trained Plague Stone is still seeking his maiden victory, but he has impressed in finishing second in both career starts so far. He finished just behind Secret Lady in the $150,000 Golden Gift (1100m) at Rosehill on November 25, and was runner-up to Written By in the Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield on Saturday. But it is his form in a barrier trial that has really excited punters: he displayed a great turn of pace as he won by five lengths. “He’s a fascinating horse,” said Cummings. “You’d swear he was a five-year-old gelding the way he's so relaxed around the stable but when the gates open he switches straight on and wants to utilise his speed.” Plague Stone is currently the $8 joint favourite in the horse racing betting markets.

Kinky Boom

Jockey Craig Williams likened Kinky Boom to last year’s Blue Diamond Stakes winner, Catchy, after she secured an impressive debut victory in the $250,000 Inglis Premier over 1200m at Caulfield earlier this month. Williams was aboard Catchy last year and said Kinky Boom is another special horse blessed with fantastic acceleration. “She’s a major contender for the Blue Diamond,” he said. “Like Catchy last year, she showed she can come from off the speed and use her acceleration.” That win caused Kinky Boom to drop from $17 all the way down to $8 for the Blue Diamond, leaving her level with Plague Stone in the betting.
Written By
Written By has also seen his odds plummet in the past few days after beating Plague Stone to win the Blue Diamond Prelude at Caulfield on Saturday. That firmed him from $17 to $8.50 for the big race, which takes place on February 24. He won the Cameron Thurley Bucks Day 2YO Plate over 1000m on his debut at Sandown, but required barrier education after emerging as a bit of a rogue in that department. Trainer Grahame Beggs believes he is now on top of those issues, and Written By responded with a devastating win in the Prelude, finish half a length ahead of favourite Plague Stone and a length and a half in front of Native Soldier. It is great news for Beggs, who trained 12 Group 1 winners in Sydney, before moving to Mornington Peninsula to rejuvenate his career. He now has his first Blue Diamond Stakes runner and Written By looks a great bet right now as he is in superb form and still has vast untapped potential.
Oohood
Another Tony McEvoy charge, Oohood, has placed three times in three races so far and put in an eye-catching performance to finish third in the Blue Diamond Preview. She went off as 3/1 favourite, but was held up and had to weave through heavy traffic before finishing strong and almost winning it. If she gets a better ride in the Blue Diamond she will be hard to beat. McEvoy has a strong hand for the Blue Diamond, with Kinky Boom, Oohood, Run Naan and Roobena all looking dangerous.
Long Leaf
David Hayes’ Long Leaf has only been seen once, but it was an impressive run as he beat Oohood to the Blue Diamond Preview back in November. Hayes holds the record for the most Blue Diamond Stakes wins of all-time after Catchy gave him his sixth victory last year. It is common for his runners to only make a single appearance before the Blue Diamond, and Long Leaf should enjoy the step up in trip later this month.
Ollivander
This promising colt secured a strong debut win in a Listed Blue Diamond Preview, which left him among the early favourites. However, he flopped at the weekend, finishing 10th of 13 runners in the Blue Diamond Prelude, well behind the likes of Written By and Plague Stone. His odds have since drifted out to $11, but he remains sixth in the betting thanks to the strength of his earlier showing.
The Rest
The field is deep and stacked full of talent, and it will not be properly whittled down until final acceptances are made later this month. The field and barrier draw will be released on the Tuesday before the race. There are plenty of interesting runners in the mix right now, including Ennis Hill, Seabrook, Native River and Stratosphere. Favourites have a decent record in the Blue Diamond Stakes, but taste defeat more often than success, so it is worth looking for value further down the card.


A Betting Strategy for Your Favourite Horse Trainers

Racing News
Betting odds. 

Whether we are talking 6/4 of 1000/1 they mean something. Price to chance. The odds of winning or losing. At the end of the day, they detail one thing: an opinion. I guess unless you are betting in a vacuum, it is a consensus of opinions to form one opinion detailed in a fraction or decimal. 

This story is anecdotal rather than based on data. However, I could easily run a test on a given trainer to pinpoint an interesting fact about betting odds. I've noticed that certain horse trainers have an increased chance of winning when their runner is at a given price or within a certain range. 

I'm not just stating that the shorter the price a horse the better chance it has of winning. That isn't always the case. 

I remember years ago, and I'm talking a long time, when Ron Boss used to train in Newmarket. 

Ron was an astute trainer of two-year-olds. For the size of his string, he always found a decent horse. Very much in the mold of Paul Kelleway, he wasn't scared to contest the highest class even when others scratched their head.

 A few readers may remember Mon Tresor winning the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1). You need a long memory to remember 1988. It was the start of my interest in two-year-old horse racing. I had the Racing Post delivered every day. I could recall every horse, form line, winner to a point of being a potential candidate for Master Mind. Ron Boss was a character. He was a superb trainer. 

The funny thing I always noted about him was his knack at winning with two-year-old colts and fillies on their second start. They are very consistent when priced at certain odds. This may have been a coincidence, but every time he had a winner they seemed to win  second start at odds of 11/2. 

It was uncanny.

I have noticed similarities with other trainers. I'm not going to detail them here because I don't want to just give my best info away. 

However, I would suggest to those punters who follow a given trainer to take note of the horses that win on debut or second start and see if you can spot a pattern. 

I know I have found a number who remind me of the good old days.   

Where are they now? Read about Ron Boss.

Pro Gambler: Betting Big Odds On

Odds On Loser Challenged by Clown
Pro gambler stores are always popular. To walk in the shoes of someone who puts their money down betting that they know a little more than the bookmaker who thinks they don't. A battle of wits, judgment and courage. 

I say courage because for some professional gamblers they have a lot more to lose than win. How come? 

When they bet huge odds on.   

Betting odds on takes a certain mentality. You find comfort in the fact that your horse is favourite, high-profile trainer, leading jockey takes the mount. All the money is on this beast so let's feel the safety in numbers. 

What could go wrong? 

Odds on winners are good news but odds on losers hit you hard. All that positivity comes back at you in the negative. You literally feel as though a clown is following you round the racecourse. He's pointing at you: smiling, laughing, sneering, mocking. You feel like your trousers are going to fall down at any moment and you can't remember if you put on boxers or not.

He shouts: ''Look at this chump, he backed an odds on loser!'' 

He gives you a couple of honks from his horn. Smiles. 

''Loser!''

He delves into a bag and pulls out a cream pie and everyone on the racecourse is watching. Even the commentator [Tommo] is keeping the crowd informed to a point they missed the finish of the last race. Bookmakers price up whether you will get the cream pie within the next few minutes. 

You'd bet on it yourself, but fearful of what happened to this poor loser. 

Out of the corner of your eye you spot a line of clowns limbering up with their best stuff. One is scooting round the course in a clown car as parts fall off along the way. 

I remember a story detailed in Dave Nevison's book which he spoke of one pro who bet huge odds on and hardly dare watch fearing any moment his horse would be struggling or notice (somehow) it was being ridden by a real clown. He's laughing at  the crowd as he fires confetti into he air. He yells: ''You f****** losers!!!!'' 

Too many times that big, strong, colt returns to the paddock with cream pie all over his face. 

Strangely, they never called for a stewards' inquiry. 

The perils of betting big odds on.

Assessing Your Bets to Win More Money

Assess Your Betting to Win
Even without realising you probably bet a certain way. This may be the case if you don't assess your bets. It's good reason why you need to take note of each and every wager: course, code of racing (Flat/NH), betting odds, going... The more info you detail the better. It will help you consider, perhaps, the strength and weakness of your betting day, week, month or year(s).

It is all too easy to bet without thinking. Automatic. Perhaps subconsciously you have a losing pattern which is blighting your success without even appreciating its affect. 

If you are winning money, you may consider you don't need to investigate. That may be a mistake because minor improvement can make a huge difference to your fortunes. If you are losing consistently, this assessment it crucial. Review your bets. No need to obsess about it but be mindful. 

You don't need to do anything there and then but just take note. 

It might be: ''Another odds-on shot, beaten''

''Every time I bet on a double-figure priced, the horse runs horrendously''

''Soft ground. Why do I keep betting when the ground changes?''

You may be quite happy with your bets and consider they cover a variety of bets and money backed. 

It is possible you notice that when you increase your stake you find a loser. Perhaps after a couple of losing bets you half your stake. Sod's Law, it wins.

There is no right way to bet, because everyone has their own approach, likes, dislikes, sport, bet type... 

But within that range you may just notice an anomaly.

If you can weed out one or two weak bets you can use this money to bet on your greater chances. 

For that reason, it is good to keep a diary or notepad and make assessments throughout the season. 

Why Steering Clear of the Favourite in the Grand National Betting is Strongly Advised

Grand National 2018The Grand National is always a thoroughly absorbing and entertaining spectacle and is a race that evokes plenty of opinion from both racing enthusiasts and novices. The four-mile steeplechase, which commands a forty-strong field, regularly provides drama and excitement but it remains one of the toughest races on the calendar to predict. With such a competitive line-up and a huge number of fences to clear, there is a high chance of an upset and opposing the favourites in the market is strongly advised.

Just five favourites have prevailed in the race since 1990 and the event, which is staged at Aintree Racecourse, is one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Don't Push It was the last favourite to land the spoils under a superb ride from Tony McCoy back in 2010, going off as the joint 10/1 fancy at the top of the market alongside Big Fella Thanks, who came home in fourth. Hedgehunter and Comply or Die are also relatively recent winners who started at single-figure odds but these success stories are few and far between.

With 40 runners all hurtling across the turf in close proximity, bumps and knocks regularly occur and any small encroachment or nudge can disrupt the rhythm of another participant thus affecting the outcome of the event. There are very small margins in such a crowded field.Several runners have been taken down during the early stages of the race by a falling horse which has blocked their patch and this has put pay to their chances barely a mile into the contest. In the 2017 staging of the event, Definitly Red was amongst the leading fancies but was badly hampered early in the contest and had to be pulled up. Trainer Brian Ellison is back for another shot with his nine-year-old stable star and according to the latest betting from Oddschecker, he is the 20/1 second favourite for the 2018 race behind Blaklion.

The Nigel Twiston-Davies runner went off as the 8/1 favourite in last year's event and after a promising start, faded late on and finished a tired looking fourth. He is unproven at the distance having never prevailed in any race longer than 3m 2f and that puts a huge question mark over his chances once again. He was imperious in the Becher Chase back in December 2017 beating Highland Lodge and the Last Samurai but is far from a sure thing in this significantly longer contest.

Abolitionist is just one example of a runner who is capable of springing a surprise. The Dr Richard Newland trained ten-year-old is an Irish National winner and is returning from an injury layoff. Mala Beach has recently won at Navan and could be an interesting contender if conditions take a turn for the worse. The Gordon Elliott trainer ten-year-old has shown plentyof versatility including two victories on heavy going.

One For Arthur was the surprise winner of last year's contest, rewarding backers who had supported the 14/1 shot for trainer Lucinda Russell. Previous races have been landed by 33/1 (Rule the World), 25/1 (Many Clouds) and 66/1 (Auroras Encore) fancies and such lofty oddscan hugely reward each-way backers. 2009 winner Mon Mome was one of the biggest price winners in the last forty years of the Grand National coming home at an eye-watering 100/1.

If a favourite somehow comes through the mire and crosses the line ahead of the chasing pack, a better strategy remains to pick out some bigger priced alternatives. Many online bookmakers will pay out for the first five places however if you shop around, a number of betting sites will stretch to 6th and 7th positions for a race of this magnitude and this can be a great way of securing some returns. In 2010, Don't Push It may have rewarded favourite-backers however the places were filled by 14-1, 16-1 and 20-1 shots whilst in 2016, Vics Canvas finished 3rd at 100/1 followed by Gilgamboa under Robbie Power who returned 28-1.

Every Grand National bettor will have their own unique system, some are profitable; others less so. Backing the favourite has not been particularly rewarding in recent years and due to the competitive nature of the event coupled with the sheer volume of traffic en-route, it is often as much about luck as it is judgement. It is advised to look beyond the top of the marketand find a big price alternative instead. This is a much better way of enjoying the Aintree spectacle and it could be a strategy that pays dividends this year.

Betting Strategies: The First Line of Defense

I went to watch my cousin play football the other week. 

He plays for a Sunday pub team. 

A bunch of beer-thirsty football lovers with nostalgia in their head, heart and feet. It's an odd bunch. A couple of teenagers, a goalkeeper who once had a trial for West Ham, three heavyweights who smoke more cigarettes a day than they can do press ups. My cousin is 6' 8'', unfit, twenty-five stones, but loves the beautiful game. A Norwich supporter for his sins! The rest of the team and two subs look like people seen on an e-fit for Crime Watch. 

Good lads, one and all. 

As the whistle blew to start the game, all but the goalkeeper chased the ball, everyone out of position, headless chickens. The other team kept their form. After 1-minute and 23 seconds the Headless Chickens conceded a goal. 

At half-time, the scoreline was in double figures. The game was lost. 

In ways, betting is the same.

A lack of strategy, disciple, thought may prove costly.

Why? 

Because bad betting decisions can prove hard to swallow. Many novice bettors do not appreciate what they are dealing with until they find themselves in a hole. It may be a financial hole.

That's why I always say to people, 'don't bet for fun'. There lies a problem for many because very few novices bet from a knowledge-experience base to start. Even if they have read umpteen books, watched videos, have a mentor there is a world of difference between your approach, perspective and strategy compared to someone else. It's the human condition. One person will never bet more than 50p each-way while another wouldn't bet less than £50. 

If betting for fun, you need a disciplined approach. 

I often say, 'if you don't have an answer to a question' you may be disappointed with the answer you find. 

You won't know the answer until it jumps out of a dark corner and may have a hefty price to pay whether money, relationship, health. 

Betting Strategies. Do you have a set approach to your gambling? 

From what I have seen, very few of the betting public have any strategy at all. Let's consider for a moment that a betting strategy could be as simple or as complex as you like. 

It may detail how much you bet. Which sport(s) you bet. Bet type (single, double, acca). Basically, a betting strategy is another word for discipline. I'm sure many of you who bet have wrestled with sustaining a disciplined approach. 

When I consider my betting, it is remarkable how many aspects stand on a foundation of discipline. They are so ingrained that I don't realise they are at play. If I wrote down my thought process when making a bet it would run into a long list. 

Even after all these years I have had days where I have lacked discipline. 

Long term, to be successful at anything in life takes discipline. Sometimes you need to look at the long game with the understanding that those formative years are more important that you realise. 

When betting for fun don't be fooled into thinking you don't need discipline. 

Stud Fees: Frankel, Dubawi & Galileo

Frankel Sire Stud Fee
As the song goes: Money talks, money talks...Dirty cash I need you, oh.

Nothing dirty about the cash used here!

When it comes to the pursuit of finding the best thoroughbred racehorse, for some, money is no object. 

You need deep pockets to register as a significant owner in the sport of kings. 

No doubt, a well breed horse has a better chance of achieving greatness than the sixth generation to Eyeore. This breeding lark isn't about pinning the tail on the donkey. Although you may well find your purchase isn't quite what you expected if you get 'the slow one'. 

Just out of interest, how much money do you need to pay to have your broodmare bred with a top-class stallion? 

One sire which readers will have an opinion is Frankel. This relatively new sire needs little introduction finishing his racing career unbeaten when trained by Sir Henry Cecil. His offspring have followed the maxim: like father like son with a number of exceptional talents hitting the headlines. Readers may be familiar with true talents such as Fair Eva, Queen Kindly & Cracksman who was the first of the European crop to win at Group 1.

Frankel was consider by Timeform as the highest rated horse after winning 14 races in his unbeaten career. 

Success breeds success. So much so that his original sire free has risen from £125,000 - £175,000. A 40% increase which means he is one of the most expensive stallions in the world. 

In 2018, he is expected to cover 150 mares and make £20m. 

When you consider the average price for his yearlings is £500,000 investors look to be making a return.  

However, he isn't the most expensive. 

Dubawi costs £250,000 to cover a mare. 

Expensive?

But what about the stallion of stallions? The sire of Frankel and a name that can do little wrong when it comes to breeding lines.

Galileo

How much would you pay for this stallion? Well, you would have to ask very kindly because he doesn't have a list price. His fee is kept private.