Here is the first part of my Guide To The Cheltenham Festival. In this post we take an overview of the “festival” and the characteristics of the Prestbury Park course.
The Cheltenham Festival is the climax of the National Hunt season and the entire season, from mid-November builds towards the “festival” at Prestbury Park. The course is set in a natural amphitheatre at the foot of Cleeve Hill in the Cotswolds.
The course itself consists of two seperate tracks, the “old” course and the “new” course. The old course is used on Day 1 and Day 2 with the new course used for Day 3 and the Gold Cup on Day 4. Both courses are left-handed ovals of around one mile and a half. The hurdles course consists of 7 hurdles per circuit and the chase course of 10 stiff fences. The key characteristic is that both courses are very undulating and testing on horse and jockey, the uphill finish over the last 1/2 mile provides a real spectacle as the horses race for the finish.
Note that it is the policy to have good/soft going on Day 1 and so the course will be watered if needed to ensure that this happens, Day 1 can be the slowest day, unless there is rain around over the festival.
Horses For Courses Type Track
Cheltenham is a real horses for courses track. Previous course form is one of the key pointers as to wether a horse will run well at the course. In fact it is so important that many bettors that I know will disregard recent form in favour of course form, even form from 12 months earlier.
We saw this last year when we backed Son Of Flicka in the Coral Cup at 16/1, he had done nothing since coming 2nd the previous year in the same race on a mark of 140, behind Sir Des Champs. The yard and owner of the horse had made it clear that they would be targetting the race and they shrewdly brought his mark down to 135 for the race and went on to win by a couple of lengths. You need to do your research and track horses to dig out value like this – but it is there and is there every year.
You are looking for horses who can jump well but more importantly have the ability to stay the trip at a strongly run pace, you will not get a breather in these races and any lack of stamina will be found out here.
To find winners here you need to examine the statistics, trends and re-watch the trials races in which the major contenders have run to identify recent form.
Be Selective & Focus your attention on the 12 Grade 1 races and a few of the other races, do not be tempted to try to examine all 27 races over the 4 days.
Let Me Give You My Selections
I also recommend that you look at becoming a member of our Email Selection Service as I share all my selections over the 4 days of Cheltenham and also Aintree in April. So there has never been a better time to join.