With 28 races (including the Prestbury Cup) over four days, The Cheltenham Festival is the fourth biggest sporting event in the UK with 260,000 visitors attending.
The local Gloucestershire economy benefits to the sum of £100,000,000. In 2016 an incredible £2,200,000 was taken from cash machines at The Festival. The 3,500 catering team employees work each day and serve five tons of cheese and five tons of smoked and fresh salmon over the four days. Not to mention serving punters over the temporary bar counters – all 5 furlongs of them.
Having stood in the main grandstand on a number of occasions as the tapes go up for The Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle Race which opens the meeting on Day 1, the roar from the crowd is something to behold and it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Given the atmosphere, it is all too easy to get carried away and lose your sense of perspective by betting away your first two days’ bank by the time The UniBet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy has been run – and that’s only the fourth race on day one.
Better to have a longer term plan and look at some bets which will sustain your interest throughout the week: the Prestbury Cup contested between British and Irish trained winners should keep you riveted. Using free bet opportunities will also help your budget go further for Cheltenham Festival betting 2018
At last year’s Festival the bet would have sustained you into Day 4. Over the first two days things were very close with Irish trained winners narrowly ahead with 8 winners to Britain’s 6. However an astonishing day for the Irish on Day 3 pretty much finished things off as a contest, with the first six winners on the seven-race card going to the Irish, with Willie Mullins saddling no fewer than four of those winners.
Going into Gold Cup Day the Irish only needed one more winner to take the cup back to Ireland. Phillip Hobbs won the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle to give the home team hope, but when the Willie Mullins (who else) trained Arctic Fire won the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle – the second race on the card – it was all over for another year.
The Prestbury Cup was introduced at The Festival in 2014 formalising the friendly rivalry between Britain and Ireland. Captains were introduced in 2016 with ex-jump jockey Choc Thornton representing Britain and TV personality and racehorse owner Hector Ó hEochagáin representing Ireland. Last year, 2017, saw Phil Tufnell, former England and Middlesex cricketer taking over while Hector Ó hEochagáin represented Ireland for a second year.
The winners take home a little bit of Cheltenham with them, as a portion of the harrowed Cheltenham turf is sealed inside the cup.
Although the Irish have had a good run recently, also winning 15–13 in 2016 and 14–13 in 2013, British trainers have tended to hold sway. In the 1980s for example the Irish only saddled 38 winners throughout the whole decade and failed to have a single winner at all in 1989. By coincidence the number of Irish winners in the 1990s was also 38 but they did at least manage to saddle at least two winners each year in the decade.
Between 2000 and 2009 the total rose dramatically to 59 winners with double figures being reached for the first time ever in 2006 with 10 winners. It was clearly a sign of things to come. Between 2010 and 2017, a further 79 Irish trained horses have outstayed the rest up the hill in front of the main grandstand.
The key to the Irish hopes would appear to lie in the form of the Willie Mullins raiders. The three Irish wins in 2013, 2016 and 2017 have coincided with Mullins having a winning strike rate in the Irish Jumps sphere of 32% in 2013, 33% in 2016 and 32% in 2017. His winning strike rate this season to date in Ireland is 31%. His corresponding statistics for runners in Britain reads 12% in 2013, 17% in 2016 and 17% in 2017. He has only had five runners in Britain this season, although two of them have won.
Other Britain vs Ireland betting markets include the Leading Jockey Award. Sadly, it looks a foregone conclusion. Ruby Walsh should be back race riding in February after breaking his leg and as he has won the title 10 times in the last 13 Festivals and he rides for Willie Mullins who has saddled 24 winners in the last four Festivals, the odds on an eleventh title will be very short indeed.