As the Cheltenham Festival draws near, the bookies are already considering how much money they will make if the best-backed horses fail to deliver….and counting their liabilities such the most popular fancies take care of business.
There’s usually a narrative or two at play that acts as the main attraction to casual punting interest, and in 2022 that looks set to be the return of Rachael Blackmore after her record-breaking Festival last year.
The Irish raider became the first female to win the Champion Hurdle, and her six victories in all saw her crowned the first woman to win the top jockey award at the Festival too.
Even the most casual of punters have long memories when it comes to Cheltenham success, and they have already begun weighing in to the betting market with their Blackmore-powered multiples.
Honeysuckle, on board whom Blackmore’s Champion Hurdle victory came, is likely to be focal point of plenty of accumulators that will also include the 32-year-old’s suspected mounts like A Plus Tard, Telmesomethinggirl and Bob Olinger.
That quartet are all favourites in their respective betting heats, and Paul Binfield of Paddy Power confirmed the layer’s worst fears: “Rachael Blackmore multiples on each day are likely to be a real headache given her immense popularity.”
So which other Cheltenham Festival fancies are giving the bookmakers a headache?
JonBon By Jove
One of the biggest ‘buzz’ horses of the meeting looks set to be Jonbon, who the books have confirmed could get their Cheltenham Festival off to the worst possible start in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.
Representatives from a number of firms have described Nicky Henderson’s horse as one of the most significant losers they could face, while a spokesperson for William Hill revealed: “We laid 25/1 about Jonbon for the Supreme, and a victory for him in the opening race of day one would be a very bad start.”
The destination of Bob Olinger and Galopin Des Champs has led to much speculation and jockeying for position, but the insinuation they could face off in the Turners Novices Chase has opened the door for others in the Brown Advisory – and punters have been tucking into the down-on-his-luck Paul Nicholl’s charge, Bravemansgame.
Willie Mullins’ horses are being as well backed as ever, with Facile Vega attracting plenty of interest in the Champion Bumper and one that the bookies hope fails to deliver.
🗣”Sir Gerhard, Bravemansgame, Shishkin, Tiger Roll and Facile Vega are the horses in question so we will be praying at least one of them will do us a favour”
Here are the leading bookmakers on their major liabilities heading into jump racing’s biggest four days👇
— Racing Post (@RacingPost) March 11, 2022
Digging deeper into the card, traders have mentioned the likes of Allaho (Ryanair Chase), Winter Fog (Pertemps Final), Wonderwall (Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle), Gaelic Warrior (Boodles) and Bardenstown Lad (Albert Bartlett) as others that have been well backed by the public.
And there will surely be plenty of money forthcoming for Tiger Roll, the Festival specialist who could make his final ever appearance of a stellar career in the Cross Country Chase.
Beware the Odds-On Mentality
For those with only a passing interest in horse racing, the temptation at Cheltenham is to just bunch up a few of the odds-on fancies into a multiple.
But this tactic is fraught with risk – as confirmed by the history books.
Since 2004, just 27 of the 53 odds-on favourites at the Cheltenham Festival have prevailed – a pretty poor strike rate of a little over 50%. Knowing that the collection includes horses that went off at 1/2 or even shorter, clearly the numbers don’t stack up when betting blindly on the market jollies.
If you have packaged up the odds-on shots in an acca at each edition of the Festival since, you’d have been left disappointed – at least one of the horses has lost in all but two of those years, meaning that the vast majority of multiple bets would have been consigned to the punting scrapheap.
So perhaps the smart thing to do is follow the money, but only those horses that are giving the bookmakers the biggest headache heading into the four-day extravaganza at Prestbury Park. Somehow, that makes winning all the sweeter….