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By the time you read this we will be onto the 2nd day of the great festival itself and I do hope you are well ahead so far.

It’s the first time since 1982 the going has been on the heavy side and in fact it’s only been soft once on the opening day and that was in 2013. So do watch the live market prices and steamers as they will give you a clue as to those horses who act on this un characteristic Cheltenham going.

In the opening race on the 1st day ‘Getabird’ was the clear strong favourite and subsequently went on to to finish unplaced. You have to get suspicious when bookies were offering 50/1 on Getabird to win for first time only customers albeit to small stakes. Did they know something? Who knows.

Most of my personal bets at the festival are in Non-Handicaps although I do know many of you do like a bash at the handicaps.

By their very nature handicaps are harder to decipher and are open to market plunges or steamers as many know them by. These gambles can derive from both inside info as a result of horses doing well at home on the gallops, or horses that are well handicapped (well in at the weights as it’s called). Also those that have not been given hard previous races with the mission of dropping down the weights I think you know what I mean?

However, such horses cannot escape the transparent betting market and there still may be a bit of value left after they have been ‘plundered on’ early doors.

A good indicator is to look at the racecards the evening before the next day’s races (around 9pm would do).

Then check the prices the next day at around 12 midday and look for those that dramatically differ in price (by around 40% would be a good guide) from their racing post forecast price the evening before.

For example; if a selection was 10/1 in the RP forecast the night before and then has dropped to around 6/1 by midday the following day then it would be wise to make a note of such horses.

Then wait for around 2 mins before the off as normally the price starts to ease and you may be able to gain 1 or 2 betting points over the early steamed price.

See below for example taken from Sandown;

With Cheltenham’s strong betting market and generally good prices for handicaps you can bet on more than one steamer in the same race, maybe up to a maximum of 3 or 4 in some races.

Here are the handicaps for the remaining days of the Cheltenham festival.


Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle


Pertemps Final Handicap Hurdle

Kim Muir Handicap Chase


Martin Pipe Handicap Hurdle

This is just a guide for those wanting to play the big handicaps that could pay big dividends and it’s all about watching the prices. Of course, it can be used on any handicaps at big festivals or on big races at the weekend. Whatever your angle, best of luck and do tread carefully in this unusual soft/heavy going.