Wednesday 17 January 2018

Cheltenham: The best way to beat bookies

Ahead of this week's jumping action, our top tipsters outline the approach they'll adopt in a bid to return a profit at the end of the four days

Punters celebrate after the Willie Mullins-trained Mikael d'Haguenet, with Ruby Walsh up, wins at Cheltenham last year. Many will again be following Walsh with their money this time around
Punters celebrate after the Willie Mullins-trained Mikael d'Haguenet, with Ruby Walsh up, wins at Cheltenham last year. Many will again be following Walsh with their money this time around

Damien McElroy

While a proven betting strategy is invariably a trump card for discerning punters, few of us have the discipline and discernment to match up to the intoxicating ingredients of the annual Cheltenham challenge.

Whether it is the buzz of the Anglo-Irish sporting challenge or the trademark roar that greets the start of the Supreme Novices Hurdle, the heart can rule the head in the Cotswolds and logic often gives way to sentiment.

The urge to row in repeatedly with our team to defeat the best of the British squad is understandable in view of the splendid returns of recent seasons, but a rather more dispassionate approach could reap dividends.

For instance, last year the visiting contingent, for all the welcome successes that almost reached double figures, were comprehensively outgunned by the home defence in the Smurfit Kappa Champion Hurdle.

What followed in the course of the next three days in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, World Hurdle and Totesport Gold Cup were further reminders that our older Grade One runners came up short.

Granted we can lay claim to the inimitable Ruby Walsh as the constant presence aboard the Paul Nicholls hotpots Master Minded, Big Buck's and Kauto Star, all odds-on to prevail again next week.

Following the flourishing Nicholls-Walsh partnership, particularly on Saturdays, has already paid a decent dividend this season and the professionals have been all over this trio in the build-up to the festival.

Whether they will deliver in turn once more is anyone's guess and the one certainty is you will be trading at very cramped odds and, as a result, Nicholls and Walsh are almost unbackable to be top trainer and jockey.

Nicholls, of course, is best known for his steeplechasers and his Ditcheat stable will have few major players for the various novice hurdles, leaving Ruby free to link up with Willie Mullins in these events.

Apart from jumping on the Walsh bandwagon and backing him almost blindly during the festival, as many did 12 months ago and collected on seven occasions, where do we look to make the meeting turn a profit?

I suppose the golden rule is that there's no such thing as a bad-priced winner, particularly when you have to contend with four days of such intense activity.

Collecting even a modest profit from your wager is much preferable to cursing your luck and musing what might have been -- what's more, you tend in any case to think more clearly and stick to plan A.

The great temptation for Irish backers, especially the way the meeting is shaping up, is to front-load your investments on the opening afternoon when we could conceivably be cheering home the first two winners plus the final pair.

Dunguib has long been enshrined as banker material for the opener and Paddy Power's concession of refunding win bets on all his opponents should Philip Fenton's charge do the business again should not be ignored.


It's quite likely that the rails layers will be offering even-money rather than asking odds about Dunguib emulating Montelado's unique Weatherbys Bumper-Supreme Novices, so I'd recommend availing of that offer and taking out some insurance by playing Get Me Out Of Here or Blackstairmountain each-way with Powers.

Then the choice for Irish backers is between former hurdles hero Captain Cee Bee as favourite or rowing in with Sizing Europe/Sports Line each-way against Somersby for the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy.

Sitting out the William Hill Trophy, you are either an admirer of last year's Supreme Novices winner Go Native in the Smurfit highlight or have already pinned your hopes on doubtful participant Solwhit.

In the belief that Punjabi won't defend his title from last year's sub-standard renewal, course form points to Khyber Kim, Medermit and Go Native, should you feel the Irish horses will come up short.

Regrouping after those events, the Cross-Country Chase and the Mares Hurdle are races that have been kind to us. Garde Champetre appeals yet again in the former and Quevega has fellow visitor Voler La Vedette to fear most in the latter.

Rite Of Passage (Neptune Hurdle) along with bumper pair Hidden Universe and Elegant Concorde give Dermot Weld every chance of following up Rare Holiday's 1990 Triumph Hurdle win and Willie Mullins has singled out unbeaten Enterprise Park in the Bartlett Hurdle as one of his prime challengers.

Irish Independent

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