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Cheltenham Festival 2020: Your Winners Ultimate Guide

Horse Racing Statistics, Advice and Selections

(Last Updated On: July 11, 2020)

The Cheltenham Festival Ultimate Guide Contents


This year’s Cheltenham festival takes place from March 10-13. The four-day festival is, as always, the prime focus of the horse racing world. Punters will win and lose fortunes, while trainers and jockeys will hog the limelight, and the latter will also hope to avoid serious injury!

Barring racing insiders, few have the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes. You can learn a little more about what happens with runners and riders in the video below. It features legendary jockey, Katie Walsh, who discusses how it feels to ride at Cheltenham. She also shows us the male and female jockey rooms and explains how she felt after winning big races at the festival.

For Katie and her fellow riders, Cheltenham is one of the world’s greatest stages. Of course, their glory lasts as long as the gap between rides!

Cheltenham Festival 2020: Behind the scenes with Katie Walsh
from Betway

The Cheltenham Festival (A Concise History)

Although the Aintree Grand National remains the UK’s favourite National Hunt race, racing fans tend to agree that the four-day Cheltenham festival is better on the whole. In 2020, there are 14 Grade 1 races, including the main event, the Gold Cup, which takes place on Friday, March 13, this year. This stats guide will provide what we hope is useful information on every Grade 1 race at Cheltenham.

The Festival began in 1860 with the running of the National Hunt Chase at Market Harborough. Initially, the event was called the Grand National Hunt meeting, and it took place primarily at Warwick. Aside from the 1861 event, the festival only took place in 1904 and 1905 before it permanently moved to the town in 1911. 

1924 was the year of the first Gold Cup race, won by a horse called Red Splash. Initially, the cup was merely an appetiser for the County Hurdle. However, it quickly became a championship race. The three-day festival expanded to include a fourth day in 2005. With daily crowds exceeding 60,000, it was an easy money-maker for the organisers!

In recent years, the number of equine deaths at Cheltenham has resulted in organisations such as the RSPCA calling for a review of guidelines. What happens next remains to be seen. Now that we are through with the formalities, let’s take a look at some Grade 1 race stats!

A NOTE ON TRENDS

In each case, I have included the number of winners from the number of runners in a specific format. For example, if 12 of the last 20 winners finished in first their previous race, it will say 12/20.  


Cheltenham Festival Day 1: Tuesday March 10th

1:30 – Supreme Novices’ Hurdle

This race is for 4yo+ horses and takes place over a distance of 2m 87 yards. The beginning of this race is traditionally greeted with the famous ‘Cheltenham Roar’ to mark the opening of the festival. The recently retired Ruby Walsh has the record number of wins as a jockey with six, while Willie Mullins is the leading trainer, also with six wins.

There are usually between 12 and 20 runners in this race. Klassical Dream won last year’s race at odds of 6/1 as the Walsh & Mullins combination worked a treat once again.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 19/22
Top 6 in the Betting Market 19/22
16-60 days since the last run 18/22
2-5 season runs 22/22
5-6 years old 11/12

With Ruby Walsh now retired, there isn’t a jockey with an outstanding record in this race. Willie Mullins has won 5 of the last 22 runnings, though he has entered 39 horses in that time.  Nicky Henderson has one win from 32 runners, and Martin Pipe has one win from his last 28 runners in this race.

Since 1997, 52 horses have met all five criteria in our trends list. Here is how they have performed:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
52 12 23.08% 92.1% 76.92% 1.58

On average, then, only 2-3 horses meet all of the above each year. However, Klassical Dream was the first of them to win this race since Douvan in 2015.

2:10 – Arkle Challenge Trophy

This race is for horses aged 5yo+ and takes place over approximately 2 miles. It is for novice chasers who jump a total of 13 fences. The competition replaced the Cotswold Chase in 1969 and is named after the legendary three-time Gold Cup winner. Numerous Arkle winners go on to triumph at the Queen Mother Champion Chase in later years.

Small fields are standard, with fewer than ten runners a regular feature in the modern era. Duc Des Genievres won last year’s race for Willie Mullins at odds of 5/1. Barry Geraghty has four wins as a jockey, and Nicky Henderson has six wins as a trainer.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 17/22
Top 5 in the Betting Market 20/22
16-60 days since the last run 21/22
2-5 season runs 20/22
6-7 years old 11/12
At least one previous run at Cheltenham 11/12
OR of 152+ 10/12

Geraghty has four wins in 13 rides. Henderson’s last four wins have come from 17 entries. Martin Pipe has four wins from 11 entries, and Willie Mullins has four wins from 16 horses. Here is what happens when you look at the above trends in terms of winners from 1997.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
9 5 55.56% 46.23% 45.11% 1.38

Relatively few horses meet all the trends. Footpad did so in 2018 and won as the odds-on favourite. Altior and Douvan, in 2017 and 2016, respectively, also achieved the feat at SP odds of just 1/4.

3:30 – Champion Hurdle

This race is for all horses aged 4yo+ and takes place over a distance of 2m 87 yards. There are just eight hurdles to jump, and the Champion Hurdle remains as the National Hunt season’s most prestigious hurdling race. The inaugural run took place in 1927. Nicky Henderson is the leading trainer with seven wins. Ruby Walsh and Tim Moloney are the only jockeys to win four races.

Typically, the field consists of 8-12 runners. Espoir Dallen was the surprise winner of the race last year at odds of 16/1.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 18/22
31-60 days since the last run 16/22
2-5 season runs 21/22
6-8 years old 9/12
Previous run at Cheltenham 10/12
At least one Grade 1 Win 10/12
At least one season win 12/12

Barry Geraghty has three wins from 15 rides. Willie Mullins has four wins from his last 27 entries in this race. Henderson has won four from his last 36 runners. Let’s see how many horses have met all of the above criteria in the past.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
19 8 42.11% 64.25% 67.84% 1.47

The above are specific trends, yet an average of one horse per year meets them! Neither of the those that fitted the bill won in 2019, though Buveur D’air did in 2017 and 2018.

4:10 – David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle

This is a slightly longer race than the others on Day 1 at almost 2.5 miles. It is for 4yo+ fillies and mares. It is a relatively new race, having only been established in 2008. Willie Mullins has dominated the competition with nine wins so far. Ruby Walsh had eight wins as a jockey, all of them with Mullins. Six of these wins happened with Quevega from 2009 to 2014.

Barring a small field of nine in 2018, there are usually at least 14 runners. Roksana won last year’s race at odds of 10/1 with Daniel Skelton putting a rare dent in Mullins’ dominance.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 9/12
Top 4 in the betting market 11/12
At least 5 runs over hurdles 11/12

Mullins and Walsh have ruled this race. With the latter finished as a jockey, it is interesting to see if the former will continue to win. There aren’t many trends here, so let’s see if any horses have met all three.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
19 5 26.32% -20.13% -27.05% 0.81

Most punters will probably stick with a Mullins horse since it is tough to find a likely winner from trends alone. It is worth noting that 11/12 winners have at least two runs over 2m 3f – 2m 5f, and at least one win in this distance range.


Cheltenham Festival Day 2: Wednesday March 11th

1:30 – Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle

Also called the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle or Neptune Novices’ Hurdle, this race is for horses aged 4yo+. It takes place over a distance of 2m 5f, and runners must navigate ten hurdles. The first running of this race took place in 1971. The Mullins and Walsh combination has four wins in this race; the only victories for either individual and a record in this event.

There are often 12-15 runners and City Island won for trainer, Martin Brassil, at odds of 8/1 last year.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 17/22
Top 5 in the betting market 21/22
Last ran 16-90 days ago 22/22
Aged 5-6 12/12
OR of 146+ 10/12
At least 1 season win 10/12

Interestingly, only two of the last 12 winners had previously won at Cheltenham. Nigel Twiston-Davies has two wins from 16 runners and is the only trainer to win this race more than once, aside from Mullins. Let’s see what happens when we combine the trends.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
25 8 21.73% 108.13% 86.92% 1.30

Incidentally, the last four winners of this race have met all of the six trends above from 11 possible contenders.

2:10 – RSA Chase

The Royal & SunAlliance Chase is for horses aged 5yo+ and is a tough 3m 80-yard race that involves jumping 20 fences. It is for novice chasers and was first run in 1946. Mullins is the joint-leading trainer with four wins, along with Fulke Walwyn, who operated in the 1940s and 1950s.

There are usually 8-12 runners, and Topofthegame won the race for Paul Nicholls last year at SP odds of 4/1.

Trend Stats
Top 2 in their last race 20/22
7 years of age 16/22
Last ran 16-60 days ago 20/22
At least one previous run at Cheltenham 11/12
OR of 145+ 11/12

Mullins has four wins from his last 23 entries, Nicholls has three wins from his previous 19, as does Henderson. Barry Geraghty has three wins in 13 rides; Davy Russell has three wins from 11 rides. Let’s combine all the trends. Also, the last 12 winners of this race have won at least two Hurdles races.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
27 7 25.93% 138.33 100.93 1.81

There are usually several qualifiers each year, but this should help you narrow down the field.

3:30 – Queen Mother Champion Chase

This race is open to all 5yo+ horses, takes place over a distance of 2m 1f, and involves 13 fences. Originally called the National Hunt Two-Mile Champion Chase, this event was inaugurated in 1959, and received its present title in 1980. Barry Geraghty has five wins as a jockey, while Nicky Henderson holds the record with six wins, along with Tom Dreaper, who won his races from 1960-1970.

There are usually 8-11 runners with Altior triumphing last year for the second year in a row at SP odds of 4/11.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 16/22
Top 5 in betting market 21/22
Last ran 31-60 days ago 19/22
At least 7 Chase runs 12/12
OR of 164+ 10/12
At least one previous run at Cheltenham 11/12

Also, 11/12 winners have at least one Grade 1 win.

Geraghty’s five wins have come from just 12 rides. Nico De Boinville has won on all three occasions he has entered this race. Henderson has five wins from only 13 runners. Paul Nicholls also has five wins but from 31 entries. What happens when we combine all six trends?

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
25 8 32% 73.14% 16.4% 0.91

These horses fare relatively well, but the A/E figure suggests you don’t necessarily get value.

5:30 – Champion Bumper

This race is only open to horses aged 4-6. It is run over a distance of 2 miles and 87 yards. The race was inaugurated in 1992, with Montelado winning the event. Willie Mullins is the most successful trainer with nine wins in total. However, he has only one win since 2013.

There are usually 20-24 runners though last season’s field was just 14. Muhtathir won the race for Gordon Elliott at SP odds of 2/1.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 19/22
OR of 118+ 12/12
At least 1 season win   12/12

As you can see, the Champion Bumper is not the best race for trend lovers. The last 12 winners had at least one previous win on the Flat. Gordon Elliott has two wins in six runs as a trainer. Aside from the retired Ruby Walsh, there is no jockey with an outstanding record. Let’s see if combining the trends helps tell us anything.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
135 12 8.89% 88.7% 35.56% 1.08

You get value for your selections. However, the trends above are not too useful for this race.


Cheltenham Festival Day 3: Thursday March 12th

1:30 – Golden Miller Novices’ Chase

Known as the Marsh Novices’ Chase these days, this race is for horses aged 5+ and takes place over a distance of almost 2.5 miles. It is a relatively new race with the first running taking place in 2011. Mullins has four wins as a trainer while Walsh has three as a jockey.

The race usually has 8-12 runners. Defi Du Seuil won the race last year for P. J. Hobbs at SP odds of 3/1.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 7/9
Top 2 in the betting market 7/9
OR of 146+   7/9
Last ran 31-60 days ago 8/9
At least two season wins 8/9

Aside from the usual duo, no jockey or trainer has a record worth noting in this race. Here’s what happens when you combine the trends.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
12 4 33.33% 17.73% 8.83% 1.36

Only 12 of the 90 runners to ever compete in this race have met the trends above. However, it is very hit and miss with the only winners coming in 2012, 2015, 2017, and 2019.

2:50 – Festival Trophy

Better known as the Ryanair Chase, this event takes place over a distance of 2m 4.5f and involves jumping 17 fences. It was first run in 2005 with Ruby Walsh the leading jockey with four wins, and Paul Nicholls winning on three occasions as a trainer.  

The number of entries varies year-on-year, with only six in 2018 and 12 in 2019. Frodon won last year’s event for Nicholls at SP odds of 9/2.

Trend Stats
Top 3 in betting market 11/15
Last ran 16-90 days ago 15/15
2-4 season runs   13/15
OR of 161+ 11/12
7-9 years of age 10/12
At least seven Chase career runs 10/12

Nicholls has won his three races from 18 runners. Tony McCoy and Ruby Walsh have seven wins between them; no other jockey has more than one. Let’s combine the trends to see what happens.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
16 5 31.25% 73.93% 60.94% 1.38

Only a select group of horses meet all six trends, and the last three winners have all fitted the bill.

3:30 – World Hurdle

Also known as the Stayer’s Hurdle, this race is for all horses aged 4+. It takes place over a distance of almost three miles, and horses must jump 12 hurdles. Paul Nicholls is the leading trainer with four wins, but all four came from 2009-2012 with Big Buck’s. Ruby Walsh has five wins as a jockey and rode Big Buck’s to victory during the great horse’s four wins.

There are usually 12-18 winners, and Paisley Park won the race for Emma Lavelle last year at SP odds of 11/8.

Trend Stats
Finished top 2 in the last race 18/22
Top 4 in the betting market 17/22
Last ran 16-90 days ago 21/22
At least one previous run at Cheltenham 12/12
At least 4 career Hurdle wins 11/12
OR of 158+ 10/12

Nicholls has four wins from 18 runs, but no wins on any horse NOT called Big Buck’s! Barry Geraghty has two wins from 16 rides in this race. It is time to combine trends again.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
35 9 25.71% -18.94% -7.63% 1.10

You may get value for your selections in A/E terms, but the trends are not helpful for your bank balance overall. Big Bucks accounts for three of these wins, though Paisley Park fit the bill last season and won the race.


Cheltenham Festival Day 4: Friday March 13th

1:30 – Triumph Hurdle

We are now on the final day with the Gold Cup on the horizon. The Triumph Hurdle takes place over a distance of 2m 79 yards and is for 4yo novice hurdlers only. The first running of this event took place in 1939. Nicky Henderson is the #1 trainer with seven wins, while Barry Geraghty has ridden five winners.

Barring a small field in 2018, this race usually has 14-16 runners. Pentland Hills won the race last year for Henderson at long SP odds of 20/1.

Trend Stats
Top 2 in their last race 20/22
Last ran 16-60 days ago 22/22
At least one career win over Hurdles 11/12
OR of 139+ 9/12 (The other 3 didn’t have an OR)

The Triumph Hurdle is a race where one could pick a nice-priced winner. Only three of the last 12 favourites have won the race. Henderson’s previous five winners have come from 32 entries. Geraghty has landed his five winners from just 17 rides. Here is what happens when you combine the trends:

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
70 7 10% -49.31% -46.43% 0.78

Unfortunately, the trends don’t help us in this race. Four horses were a match last year, and only one finished in the top three. It is a rare occasion where it may behove you to eliminate horses that meet all of the above trends! This is one of the best opportunities you have at Cheltenham to pick a medium to long odds winner.

2:50 – Spa Novices’ Hurdle

Also known as the Albert Bartlett Novices Hurdle, this race takes place over a distance of 3 miles and involves jumping 12 fences. It is another relatively new race, as it was first run in 2005. It became a Grade 1 race in 2008. Tony McCoy has the record for a jockey with three wins. Jonjo O’Neill has two wins and is the only trainer to triumph in this race more than once.

This race usually has 15-20 runners. Minella Indo won last year’s race for Henry De Bromhead at big SP odds of 50/1. Forget what I said about the Triumph Hurdle, THIS is the race for long shots!

Trend Stats
6-7 years of age 10/12
At least one career Hurdles win 11/12
2-4 season runs 12/15

It isn’t much of a race for trends, nor is there any specialist trainer or jockey. What we do see is an opportunity for a long odds winner. The last six winners have had an SP of at least 11/1! This includes two 33/1 outsiders to go with the previous year’s shocker. We’ll combine the trends without expecting a great deal! For the record, 9 of the last 12 winners had at least one Grade 1-3 career win.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
109 8 7.34% -11.24% -35.19% 0.76

As expected, the lack of useful trends means the data is of little consequence. Primarily because there are at least six horses that will meet the above each year. Oddly enough, only Kilbricken Storm, in 2018, has won after meeting these trends since Fisher’s Cross in 2013.

3:30 – Cheltenham Gold Cup

The Gold Cup is the main event and takes place over a distance of 3m 2.5f. It is open to all horses aged 5+ and involves jumping 22 fences. The first Gold Cup took place in 1819, and it was a flat race won by Spectre. It didn’t become a Jumps event until 1924! Golden Miller famously won the race five times in a row between 1932 and 1936. Arkle won three in a row between 1964 and 1966.

The great Tom Dreaper, the trainer of Arkle, won the Gold Cup on five occasions. Arkle’s jockey, Pat Taaffe, is the most successful jockey with four wins. The race usually has 12-16 runners, and Al Boum Photo won the Gold Cup for Willie Mullins last year at SP odds of 12/1.

Trend Stats
Won their last race 15/22
Aged 7-9 20/22
OR of 164+ 17/22 (4 winners didn’t have an OR)
Last ran 31-90 days ago 20/22
At least one Cheltenham run 12/12
At least two career Chase wins 12/12

Let’s take a look at what happens when you combine these trends.

Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (BF) ROI (SP) A/E
37 12 32/43% 84.15% 76.65% 1.73

Not many horses have met all six trends in recent history. The last five winners of the Gold Cup have met all of the above criteria. That said, 20 horses fulfilled these trends during the past five years. However, it is an excellent way to narrow down the field.

In recent history, Gold Cup winners have at least one Grade 1 win to their name. In the last 12 years, six runners had their previous race in either the Denman Chase or King George VI Chase, and five of them won the Gold Cup. 11/12 winners had at least four career Hurdles races. 11/12 winners had at least 7 Chase runs.

In summation, here is the anatomy of the likely Gold Cup winner:

  • An exceptionally classy horse with a very high OR.
  • Vastly experienced in Chase events.
  • Has experience at Cheltenham.
  • Last ran relatively recently.
  • Has already emerged victorious in a Grade 1 race.
  • Is in the prime of its career.

While there is the occasional shock, most Gold Cup winners have an SP of 8/1 or less. Indeed, only two horses have won at longer odds since 1999, including Al Boum Photo last year. At the time of writing, there are 20 possible entries. See how far you can narrow down the field using the data above.


Cheltenham Festival: Final Thoughts

For the most part, punters are best served to look at horses that fit the following criteria:

  • In relatively good form with a recent win
  • Have raced a handful of times this season
  • Near the top of the betting market
  • A high OR compared to the rest of the field

In general, Cheltenham is a course where classy horses show their quality. For specific races, previous course experience is essential. However, there are a few races where trends don’t play a significant role. Perhaps you can locate a big priced winner to bring a smile to your face during the festival!

When you bet at the major horse racing festivals, you should approach you betting slightly differently to normal. This blog posts covers exactly how you should stake at horse racing festivals and why.

We’d love to hear who you’re going to be betting on each day throughout the festival. Please use these stats to help make your decisions, and then let us know by leaving a comment below.

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on www.lynchthewriter.com or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.

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