I will always be a small punter. Tenners, twenties, an occasional fifty and a one'r five times a year. I am not averse to Lucky 15s and to scouring Oddschecker looking for best offers and prices. If all that is beneath you or you bet in big numbers then this bit is not for you.
Here you will have the 2021 Offers as they materialize. Every Festival evening the Quick List will be updated of those bookmakers who are offering more place terms for the next day. And those to avoid at that time, if that's your thing. We also have here the Gstats 2020 Festival Bookie Review and Awards. Feel free to disagree. Unlikely to find any specific bookmaker criticism in any TV Racing Channel or Racing publication. For obvious reasons.
I know I keep banging on about this but this week of all weeks, make them bookmakers work for your cash. This is their harvest, after all. In March 2020 some on Twitter weren't happy. I was told I was one of those punters, always expecting 'something for nothing.' Well, I believe that if I spend money every week in your business and then one week in the 52, if I turnover 10 to 12 times that amount, I expect some discount or freebies.
12th Jan - Betfair Sportsbook, Paddy Power NRNB all races, Betfred NRNB the big four.
Skybet change the rules
From Oct 2020, Skybet no longer pay BOG on races where they grant extra places. Further below you will see that I like Skybet. They continually outcompete the others for extra place races. But, IMO this new tactic is a bit sneaky. Not making betting, better. I liked to put bets on with the firm after 9 am and then forget about them. No longer. It's aftertiming but in Ascot October I had a £2 ew treble and £1 doubles Antony Honeyball's three. All won finishing with Regal Encore at 14/1. Because I hadn't noticed the rule change (my fault) and deductions were taken off for nrs, it cost me £150. No tragedy, but if you are going to win, you want the strategy to be right. My near-to-the-off research tells me that in races where extra places are offered, in 90% of cases, take SP from Skybet. And make sure you click SP. They want you to take their prices. Don't get me wrong. Still a very decent internet bookie. Hills and Betfred continue to offer BOG on extra place races.
BEST BOOKMAKERS AT THE 2020 FESTIVAL?
SKYBET 2020 - £10 back in cash if your first bet on the Supreme went down. That was it. I was initially harsh here with my criticism of the Skybet concession. In 2019 it had been £20, first race every Festival Day. This change was because they had to abide by a further levy on refunds. Explained by Alan Delmonte, Head of The Levy Board on Luck On Sunday 1st March 2020. To their credit, if you have been punting £25 a week with SKYBET all year round, you get a free £5 bet each week with no expiry date. A good thing because most of the time, I forget to use them. It sounds very small but 50 weeks punting gives you £250 worth of free bets. I kept £100 or so to augment my Festival tank. You could say the Festival headline giveaway was not great but they did look after their regular small punters.
EXTRA PLACES - Professional punter and betting advisor, THE Neil Channing @senseichanning interviewed in the Racing Post Tuesday 12th March 2020 'For me, it's the one week in the year when I can get on, I can get the turnover I want and I can do the things I don't normally do ..like bet lots of each-way and get extra places, price boosts and stuff like that. I'll wake up at 3 a.m. and try and do 5 or 6 hours.' Hard to believe the great Neil scrambling around for those things but there you have it. The grids below give what happened in 2020. Happy to be corrected as things would develop throughout each day but I think this is accurate.
Handicaps first - Column on the left is the name of the Festival Handicap and the Racing Post minimum place terms to expect. On the top line we have all our top bookmakers. Underneath each name I identify any difference from the minimum term. Everyone's opinion is different but for the way I bet, I consider an extra place more important than the difference between a quarter and a fifth. Those in bold are my view of the best that was available. The Grand Annual is now down to 18 runners, the rest had 20+. Coral Cup tops with 25.
H'cap/RP terms/Bookie ||| Bet365||| Betfair|||Betfred |||Betway |||Boyles||| Corals |||WHills ||| Lads |||Powers |||Skybet
Ultima 1/5 the odds 5 plcs||| 1/4 5 |||1/5 6||| - ||| 1/5 6||| - |||- ||| - ||| - ||| 1/5 6 ||| 1/5 6
N Trust 1/5 5||| 1/4 4 ||| - ||| - ||| -||| - ||| - ||| - ||| 1/4 4 ||| - |||1/5 6
Coral Cup 1/5 5||| 1/4 6||| 1/5 6||| 1/5 6||| 1/5 6||| 1/5 6||| 1/5 6 ||| 1/5 6 ||| 1/5 6 ||| 1/5 7||| 1/5 6
Fred Winter 1/5 5||| 1/4 5||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| 1/4 4 ||| - |||1/5 6
Pertemps 1/5 5 |||1/4 5||| 1/5 6||| 1/5 6 ||| -||| - ||| - ||| - |||1/5 6||| 1/5 7||| 1/5 6
Mildmay 1/5 5||| 1/4 5 ||| -||| - ||| -||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| 1/5 6
Kim Muir 1/5 5 |||1/4 5||| - ||| - ||| - ||| -||| - ||| -||| - ||| - ||| 1/5 6
County 1/5 5 ||| 1/4 5 |||1/5 6 |||1/5 6 |||1/5 6||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| 1/5 6 |||1/5 6
G Annual 1/5 5 ||| 1/4 4 ||| - |||- ||| -||| - ||| - ||| -||| - |||- |||-
M Pipe 1/5 5 |||1/4 5||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - |||1/5 6 ||| 1/5 6
Corals had no newspaper ads informing as to place terms. Tended to follow the herd. Even in their own race. Betvictor doesn't appear in the Pricewise grids. If behind the others, Bet365 and others improved their place terms as time went on. The bookies will compete. Something I learned when keeping an eye on this throughout the Festival. Apart from Hills. They didn't care.
So what does it prove for the small punter? Well, first of all, it seems that if you are taking anything less than five places in Festival handicaps, you need to be seen to. That can't help on-course bookies. For me, each-ways don't make a big difference until in doubles and trebles. If I back a horse each way, I will also back it to win on the exchanges so that the place part becomes more just of a saver. £5 each way on a 20/1 third 1/5 the odds will pay you £25. 6/4 to your tenner. If you had had another losing £5 at 25s on the exchanges you are still a tenner ahead. If your fine selection had won you would be collecting £260 as opposed to £130. Each to their own.
Secondly, ante-post betting on handicaps? Unless you are Paul Kealy, the King of The Northern Trust/Close Bros H'cap, you need to be pretty sure that you are getting value. With the overrounds for handicaps at the six-day stage usually over 250%, is it worth it? A lot offered five places antepost, but still..
Skybet and Paddypower the kings here. Skybet 'best' or 'equal best' in 8 out of 10 races, giving punters 6 places in 9 out of the 10 handicaps. Only outgunned by Paddy Power in the Coral Cup and the Pertemps with headline gathering 7 places.
The next grid (sorry, it's become grid city this year), shows the each-way terms available for the 14 G1s and the rest of the conditions races. I have left out the following races as all the big firms did the same and followed RP terms. Probably because of the numbers, identified with each race. All six are G1s. The Arkle, (11 runners), 1/5 the odds, three places, Champion Hurdle (17) 1/5, four places. Mares Hurdle (9), 1/5 three places, Ballymore (12) 1/5 three, Ryanair (8) 1/5, three, Stayers (15) 1/5, three places. Obviously first day competition prevailed amongst firms as no one differed from 4 places in the Champion Hurdle even if they didn't have to offer that. Again the box below shows what the Racing Post would expect. This grid shows the number of runners in each race to try and understand firms' thinking. Again, those in bold, my winners.
Race/RP terms/Bookie |||Runners |||Bet365||| Betfair||| Betfred||| Betway||| Boyles||| Corals||| WHills||| Lads ||| Powers ||| Skybet
Supreme 1/5 odds 4 places||| 15||| 1/5 5||| 1/5 5 ||| -||| - ||| - ||| - |||1/5 7||| - |||1/5 5||| 1/5 3
NH Chase 1/5 3||| 14||| - ||| - ||| 1/5 4||| - ||| - ||| 1/5 4 ||| -||| 1/5 4||| - ||| -
RSA 1/5 3 ||| 10 ||| -||| - ||| 1/5 4||| 1/4 3||| -||| -||| -||| -||| - |||1/5 4
QM 1/4 2 |||7 ||| -||| -||| - |||1/3 2||| -||| - ||| -||| - ||| - ||| -
X Country 1/5 3||| 14 |||1/5 4||| - ||| - ||| -||| -||| -||| -||| -||| -||| -
Bumper 1/5 3 |||23 |||1/5 4||| 1/5 4 |||1/5 4||| 1/5 4 |||1/5 4||| 1/5 4||| -||| 1/5 4||| 1/5 4 |||1/5 4
Marsh Ch. 1/5 3||| 12 ||| - ||| 1/5 4||| - |||1/5 4||| - |||-||| -||| - |||1/5 4 ||| -
Mares Nov 1/5 4||| 22||| -||| - ||| -||| - ||| - ||| -||| 1/5 3||| - ||| -||| -
Triumph 1/5 3 |||13||| - |||1/5 4||| - ||| - ||| -||| -||| 1/5 5 |||- |||1/5 4||| -
A Bartlett 1/5 4||| 19||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - ||| - |||1/5 3 |||- ||| - |||-
Gold Cup 1/5 3 |||12||| -||| 1/5 4||| 1/5 4 ||| - ||| -||| - ||| - ||| - ||| 1/5 4 |||1/5 5
Foxhunters 1/5 3 |||24 |||1/5 5||| 1/5 4||| 1/5 4||| 1/5 4||| 1/5 4||| 1/5 5||| - |||1/5 5||| 1/5 5||| 1/5 5
Any change here? The story here was WHills, identifying the right times to grab the headlines. Five places in a 15 runner Supreme, five places in a 13 runner Triumph. The chances to grab the most punters. First race of the Festival and first race of the biggest day at the Festival. Those were the only Festival races that WHills took any place interest. Remained well behind with the Bumper, Mares Hurdle, Albert Bartlett, GC, and Foxhunters. This has been a Hills tactic throughout the last couple of Festivals, questioning the benefit of ante post for these two G1 races.
The merit of each way antepost also called into question if RP Terms expect 4 places in the 15 runner Supreme, a 17 runner Ch Hurdle, 22 in a Mares Novice, and the 19 runner Albert Bartlett. And the GC, Skybet retaliating with five places in a 12 runner field.
Skybet excelled. A strong advertising campaign. Supreme, tenner back in cash if a loser. Ballymore, Marsh and Triumph, tenner back cash if 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th. You really couldn't complain about that. Skybet was the top-performing bookmaker for 'places' in the Festival. They were top or 'joint top' in 20 of the 28 races. I backed Mill Green 6th home at 80/1 ew in the Martin Pipe, so I'm grateful. Take out the first race each day when they organised their own discount and they were only topped in four races. As well as the Coral Cup and the Pertemps, they didn't go four places in the NH Chase and Betway went 1/3 the odds in the QM.
2020 Offers - What other titbits were served up to tempt us? Mind, you don't get these if your account is restricted (Bitter? Me? Never).
Paddy Power - Day 1 and Day 2 Free bet to £10 if 2nd 3rd or 4th in any race. Day 3 Free £5 bet on the Stayers. Day 4 Extra Places Every Race. Like everyone else that day. Knew they don't have to try on GC Day. BOG only in the shops. Be warned.
Ladbrokes - Full page ad every day to tell us there was a free £1 bet in our account. Right. Ok. Practically an insult, even for a nerd like me. That Grid thing is a pain. Didn't chase places. Day 3. Woke up. Bet 20 on Marsh Chase, get 10 as a free bet. Free bet if second to Ryanair winner. Back to being a non-trier on Gold Cup day.
Hills - As well as the Supreme and Triumph. Cash back as cash up to a tenner if your first bet finished second. All 28 races. That's pretty good. Also, IMO Hills go the biggest prices for the longest time. Big two page ads in the first few pages of the Racing Post. The rest follow their lead. They have a Happy Hour of price boosts 12 to 1 pm. Usually only for a tenner.
Betway - If not restricted, gave you the chance to win £50k in an impossible quad they select. 1/3 odds 1/2 in the Queen Mother. No reason, no fanfare from Hunch. Time to give them a miss, Big Fella, Brain Cell, enough's enough.
Boylesports - Every year. Money back (in small print as a free bet) up to 20 euro if 2nd or 3rd to SP Fav. It's not money back. IT'S JUST ANOTHER GO. Big TV ad in the Republic Of Ireland. A tired promotion that's had its day. I would never remember. Up to you but there are better firms. Lots of Ts&Cs.
BET365 - Worked a bit on the places but no real change from a normal Saturday. 'Why should we? Sure they will come to us anyway.' Made a big show of saying 'we will matching prices of other big firms.' Same as a Saturday. On the odd occasion they will take the lead. One of the first to close my account. I might have been £2k in front. Anecdotally 'they tend to be stay big prices because they restrict more accounts than anyone else'.
Betfred - Only online bookie to go triple odds one winner in a Lucky 15. Also 25% bonus on an all correct one. Usual offer. No BOG though. Free bet if 2nd or 3rd in Supreme, Ballymore, Marsh. If you fancy a Festival favourite overnight, in the RP Pricewise tables Betfred went biggest or equal biggest price the jolly in 26 of 28 races. No idea how long for. All morning they do Price boosts if you are in the mood to watch for them all morning.
Unibet - Financially support #goracinggreene for which they deserve credit. Have something called ITV 15 To Go. Back a horse on ITV 15 mins before the off, it wins, get a free bet matched to your stake up to £20. Keeps you with them. It's basically another point on the price as a free bet. A bet for when you fancy a score on something 3/1 or less. Wanted to give you free spins on their internet roulette. Not for me.
Corals - £10 Free bet if yours fails to finish. All Festival races. Not sure I would remember. Big full-page advert. Really? For that? They said 'discover more at Coral.co.uk.' I didn't bother. Paddypower offered more places in the Coral Cup than Corals. It's their race ffs.
Betfair Sportsbook. Bet 20 first race, get 20 as a free mobile bet to be used that day. I liked that. Even if my account is restricted. Bet 20 in multiples get 5 as a free bet.
Betvictor - 2nd March - Have a £10 sports bet with Betvictor this week and you get put into a draw for a free Festival bet. No thank you.
All (bar Skybet) seem to have that nonsense 'price boost' idea where you get a fifth of a point extra. And feel as though you should be thanking them. Not exhilarating. I'm sure I've missed other things but if they didn't attract my nerdish attention, I'm assuming they weren't great.
2020 Gaultstats Awards
The 2020 'BOOKIE OF THE WEEK' GOLD CUP - It was a close run thing but for the first time the trophy goes to WHills for their demolition of the opposition with the place terms in the Supreme and the Triumph and the 'Tenner Back As Cash If Your Selection Finishes Second' throughout the Festival. Just took it on the nod from multiple previous winners Skybet. The latter had their different offers first race each day and excellent place terms throughout the Festival including the GC. Both firms are to be complimented for working hard on the week and actually looking as though they are competing for my custom. I spent my time and my cash with them. Hills tend to lead on prices.
Those eligible bets for cash back. Remember it's your first bet each day so if you have £2 on something in the Ballymore after the offer comes into force, that's the concession used up. Also, unlike most firms, there is no time limit on Skybet's nice little £5 free bets. I have been storing these up since last years Festival. Every little helps.
Betfair Sportsbook. Bet 20 first race, get 20 as a free mobile bet to be used that day. Betfred for being early top price on favourites in 26 of 28 races.
The 'Its All Too Confusing' Salver - Winner - Boylesports. Money back (in small print as a free bet) up to 20 euro/sterling if 2nd or 3rd to SP Fav. I had difficulty finding a winner for this in 2020 which shows the lack of offers in the market place. Wins it, because the offer is tired, annoying and needs replaced. Firm lacks creativity. No horse ever trained to finish placed to the SP favourite.
The 'Also Rans' included, well you pick them. Up to three or four years ago we could nearly work through Tuesday's racing with free bets etc without spending much of our own money but these things have really changed. Hills and Skybet try, the rest don't bother, counting on us to be creatures of habit. Betvictor even depended on emailing offers to customers. Not a whiff of advertising in RP.
Things I Like To Remember
Seems silly, but keep checking throughout each race day. Things change, not only prices. Bookies will compete on place terms
19th February 2020 - 156 Entries in the Martin Pipe. Outsider of field priced at 33/1. That is at least a 500% overround. Unless NRNB and BOG and you 'get on' early, I would wait. On the day itself, there were 6 places on offer from Skybet. In the morning the winner Indefafigable was 50/1, Outsider of field Mill Green 80/1 all afternoon, finished 6th. Nine times out of ten you'll get better win prices on Betfair Exchange. But you know that.
BEST ODDS GUARANTEED - Big thing recently has been knowing when your bookmaker goes BOG. It probably means more on a normal Saturday. As I have discovered to my cost they are tightening this. It can make a big difference should you be lucky with ew doubles and above.
This is as recent a list as I can find for the main bookmakers. Check T&Cs. Some don't make it that easy to find out (until you think you have won a few quid). Again, if your account has been restricted, this may not apply.
The Night before (day of race book) - Bet365, Boylesports, Sportingbet
Before 9 a.m. - Corals, Ladbrokes (in shops you have to register for The Grid thing?),
Betfred 7 a.m., Betfair 8 a.m., Powers 8 a.m (shops only), Unibet 8 a.m.
9 a.m. Betway, Skybet, BetVictor
10 a.m. W Hills
Check On Line Betting Guide - May be different in Festival week.
Thank you Alun @gamblinglamb.
It happens to me every year. I think there is antepost value and then the BETFAIR Exchange day of race win market will go up with the 48 hr decs. Whoosh. I am always amazed at what real value is. That's what happens with miniscule exchange overrounds.
Bookies early (i.e. in the morning) - Betfair late. Overrounds on the Festival Pricewise tables in the morning close to 100% (thank you Matt Tombs). Average SP overround for 14 G1s last year was 123%, for the 10 handicaps it was 134%. I know that there will already have been a lot of changes in those boxes but it stands to reason that the best bookmaker prices will probably be before lunch. WHills and BET365 well known for standing prices for longer than most over these four days. Best to try and get most of your stuff done before lunchtime with a backup tank each afternoon for the machine? Especially if you can still get BOG.
Pricewise Tables in Racing Post - At the 2020 Festival only 5 winners returned an SP bigger than all early prices shown in the Racing Post boxes. They were Shishkin, Ravenhill, Aramax, Sire du Berlais and It Came To Pass. Betfair SPs of those five were also a lot bigger than returned industry SPs. Six others returned ISPs something pretty close to what they showed when you opened Tom Segal's tips at breakfast time. That left 17. IMO The winners that probably shortened the most price/money wise were Envoi Allen 10/11 to 4/7, Epatante 7/2 to 2/1, Politologue 12s to 6s (even after deduction), Min 11/4 to 2/1, Concertista 8/1 to 9/2, Dame de Compagnie 8/1 to 5/1, Indefatigable 50s to 25s. Betfred very much best prices in the RP for favourites.
Betfair Exchange Win Book Late - Just before the off and I mean as they are circling the start. If you fancy a fat one and no one else likes it/thinks you have lost the plot completely (recently named 'doing a Croco'), wait until just before the off before taking a price on Betfair. And I am talking in the final minute as they circle at the start. It is only then that the layers are really pushing out the outsiders and keen to balance books. Betfair ad says it all. Since 2008 94% of winners returned bigger on Exchange SP than bookies, and that's with the 5% commission taken off. If you haven't the time, take the Exchange SP. It Came To Pass 2020 Foxhunters Betfair SP 225, Industry SP 66s.
Remember bookies love NRNB because we will never take the money out of our account but punt it on something else.
Not trying to teach you to suck eggs but check each race and each bookmaker on https://www.oddschecker.com/Cheltenham-Festival. Or Attheraces for Ladbrokes and Corals prices. It is only then you will see the extra places and who is NRNB and BOG. Check the lines above each named bookmaker.
And finally, and again, try and make them bookmakers work for your cash. In the 2019 Ladbrokes/Corals list of biggest betting races in the UK, 11 of the top 20 places were filled by Festival Races. All seven of the races on Gold Cup day made it into the top 20, the lowest rated being the Martin Pipe in 19th. Only one Royal Ascot race, their Gold Cup made it into the top twenty, in 12th, two places behind the Foxhunters. I ask you..
My personal betting strategy for Cheltenham 2021 - In the last 10 Festivals and since doing Gaultstats.com I have made a total of £7800 profit on the week. That's under £800 a festival, and yes, no fortune. But fun. Last year I didn't wake up to W Mullins and Momentum until the GC and was fortunate to finish with a couple of Hail Mary quid on both It Came To Pass and Indefatigable. I know, not tipped on my site. This year, I intend to take more notice of overnight prices before burdening folk with my selections. I have been very fortunate over the last couple of Festivals. Therefore I am due a 'mare. Would win more if I cut back on the antepost. But hey ho. It helps to pass the winter.
Tactics - In the week before the Festival, I go to Grahams Preview Night in the Europa Hotel, Belfast. An excellent, well run evening. Usually attended by David Casey and Gordon Elliott who are always informative and interesting to listen to. Kevin Blake was a late replacement in 2020 for Richard 'I can't see a bet there' Hoiles. Kevin didn't disappoint. He seems to have the respect of Willie, Gordon, Henry. They talk to him and he works for Joseph. Different nuggets always come from that evening. I look forward to it. The next bit is really sad. I take the whole pre-Cheltenham week off work making stats grids on A4 paper from each race from the 6-day decs. Every race, every horse, every stat. My own pencil system of ticks, squiggles and crosses. Takes forever but once in a while something interesting will hopefully materialise. No antepost betting on handicaps (well, not that much). By the time a tip has got to me, that price has probably already gone, and, as outlined above, there is every likelihood you will get bigger and/or more places on the day. Listen to Rory Delargy and Tony Keenan on The Final Furlong. Well worth the time spent, even though you may not agree with them. Rory's knowledge is encyclopedic and Tony is definitely no mug. Both lovely lads. Recommend Andrew Mount as well, such stats, he's the real deal.
Each Festival Day - (Nerdy stuff but we all have our own way) Trust my stats grids. But be flexible enough to react to what is happening/momentum. Don't treat each race as a separate event. (yeh, that's easy). We have spent all winter deciding what we are going to bet on in certain races. Hard to adapt. Seems obvious but look at the form of each winner to possibly assist with future selections later in the week. Try to listen to very little during the week itself. Consider the selections and thinking of Tom Segal and Paul Kealy in the RP, and Betfair's Tony Calvin. Write at the top of each RP race page which bookie gives most places and those other daft offers. It's the only way I'll remember. Commit to memory the RP page number for trainer form. Mind that free bets from firms other than Skybet usually only last a limited time in Cheltenham week. Some have to be used each day. If it's the wrong price, even if it didn't enter initial calculations, trust instincts and throw a few quid at it. It's not the Flat, you have been watching these horses for six months. Horrible aftertiming, but in 2020 just before the off, I backed five winners late on the win exchange that had drifted significantly since the morning. Just enough to make them a decent winner. I backed plenty other losers in the same races, obviously. Now that I've said it, that luck won't happen this year.
No more than three beers before the first race. But feel free to keep topped up throughout the afternoon. And evening.
Most importantly, have the good grace not to ruin everyone else's time if/when it goes txts up. Be a good loser. I am lucky enough to be on holiday. This year I'm hopefully in Newcastle. Going to Hexham on the Thursday. Laptops, TVs and good company. We will try but not too hard, to avoid the dreaded seasonal GO SEA*.
Remember, if you are at Cheltenham, and even if you're not, have fun.
*Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol.
Wealth Warning. Any decisions made (or not) or the basis of any information in this site are the sole responsibility of the reader. There is no obligation on me to follow my own advice. I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors. (Bgault01@gmail.com, @gaultstats). Previous years ‘stats on stats’ would suggest we may identify a decent priced winner from manageable groups every three or four races. It is believed that Savello (2014 Grand Annual) took from Golden Chieftain (2013 3m hcap chase) the record for breaking the most stats in a race. Stands now at 8. Cole Harden equalised with 8 in the 2015 World Hurdle. Remember, after you have cursed/laughed at me and given up totally on trends, they will come back to bite. Always happens. Usually on Gold Cup Day. Beware GO SEA - Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged by Alcohol. A Cotswold condition very common at this time of year.