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Five ways to unlocking a profitable Cheltenham Festival

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Barry Geraghty and Big Zeb on their way to victory in the 2010 Champion Bumper.

Barry Geraghty and Big Zeb on their way to victory in the 2010 Champion Bumper.

AFP/Getty Images

Barry Geraghty and Big Zeb on their way to victory in the 2010 Champion Bumper.

Barry Geraghty has been Nicky Henderson's principal jockey since 2008, but it's his Festival rides for other trainers that are more likely to offer value for punters.

Winning rides aboard Jezki (Stan James Champion Hurdle) and More Of That (Ladbrokes World Hurdle) for JP McManus last year consolidated his reputation as a supersub, partnering the owner's second strings after Tony McCoy had chosen My Tent Or Tours and At Fishers Cross.

Since 2008, Geraghty's record at the Festival when not riding for the boss is six winners from 30 mounts (20 per cent strike-rate) for a chunky £1 level-stake profit of £31.50.

Interestingly, four of the winners were for Irish trainers.

For Henderson, he's managed 13 wins from 100 rides, resulting in a loss of £19.36.

Henderson handicappers offer value

Nicky Henderson has been somewhat overshadowed by Paul Nicholls and Willie Mullins this season so he will be keen to make an impact.

He is sure to be well represented in the Graded races, but a source of bigger-priced winners could be his less-exposed handicappers.

In Festival handicaps this century, his chasers which have raced fewer than 11 times over fences show a £1 level-stake profit of £45 (eight wins from 80 bets), while his hurdlers with no more than ten previous hurdles runs have returned a profit of £24 (four out of 73).

Nine of the 12 winners were 14/1 or bigger.

Focus on O'Neill's staying power

The Jonjo O’Neill stable has not always fired this season but the trainer’s horses usually peak at Cheltenham.

He’s struck at least once at every Festival since 2006 and at five this century he’s enjoyed at least three winners.

Breaking down O’Neill’s record this century by distance illustrates how he excels with stayers.

Revealingly, 18 of his 23 victories came in races over three miles or further  and backing all his horses at such trips would show a £1 level-stake profit of £139.88.

O’Neill has a strong group of stayers again this year – despite the absence of defending champ More Of That from the World Hurdle – and he could run Holywell, which has won at the last two Festivals, and unexposed Shutthefrontdoor in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Few win after a long absence

Trainers have never been better equipped to ready a horse after a long lay-off but few horses defy monster absences at the Festival.This century, runners absent for at least 200 days have posted just ten wins from 228 runs (4.4 per cent) for a £1 level-stake loss of £97.64, with Willie Mullins’ Festival legend Quevega the only hurdler to win following such a break.

Quevega (above, with Ruby Walsh aboard) was deliberately kept fresh by her trainer but most horses returning from such an absence are likely to be on their way back from illness or injury.

Irish Independent