Cheltenham: By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail... and beware afternoon pints
I'M sure most readers are familiar with the Benjamin Franklin phrase "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". It might be a hackneyed quote, but those words definitely ring true during a four-day marathon like Cheltenham.
At this stage, I already have a fair idea of which horses I'll be backing in the big races so the first thing I do before the festival starts is figure out how much I'm going to spend each day.
For instance, my banker is Dunguib. I've nailed my colours to the mast in relation to this fellow for a long time and I'm not taking them down now. People worry about his jumping at Leopardstown but I reckon he looked bored that day and his mind wasn't fully on the job. If that is true, a fast competitive pace at Cheltenham will actually help, rather than hinder, his jumping.
When it comes to planning, some people like to split their betting pot into four to cover each day of the festival, while others will have the majority of their bets on a single day. But win or lose, you must stick to your plan no matter how tempted you may be to 'borrow' tomorrow's money following a few losing races.
One of the few advantages we have over bookmakers is that they have to play in every race; we don't.
There is no possible way you could have an edge over the layers every time, and it's best to concentrate on the races that interest you most. It might seem like fun to throw a tenner on each time; but that would cost €260 for the four days and it would probably make more sense to have five bets of €50 on horses you really fancy instead, even if they are short prices.
If you like to have a pint while watching the racing, do your bets in the morning and stay away from the bookies; otherwise that staking plan you had at the start will be as useful as a chocolate fireguard.
Shop around for the best prices too as getting 100/30 about a 3/1 shot is what makes all the difference in the long term. Being disciplined is tough, but believe me, if you've beaten the books over the four days you'll have a great sense of satisfaction on Friday evening. There's simply no feeling like it.
Of course, in these days of exchanges, many punters like to lay a horse -- ie take on a horse they think that is going to get beaten because it is poor value.
I just can't take 5/6 about Master Minded in the Champion Chase. Is he the best horse in the race? Yes. Is he the most likely winner? Yes. Does he have a 55pc chance of winning as those odds suggest? No.
He suffered a cracked rib when beaten in November's Connaught Chase and he blundered through the last at Newbury; yet his many fans seem happy to sweep this under the carpet. Of the four odds-on horses, he's the one I'm most keen to take on.