I am a small punter. Tenners, twenties, an occasional fifty and a one'r five times a year. But never on the Flat. I am also not averse to Lucky 15s and to scouring Oddschecker looking for best prices. If all that is beneath you or you bet in big numbers then this bit is not for you.
You are unlikely to find views like this elsewhere as no UK racing papers, podcasts, websites, Ed Chamberlain, Lydia Hislop, RUK or ATR can afford to criticise individual bookmakers. Especially those that have lots and lots of gaming machines.
On this page you have the 2018 Offers as they materialize followed my 2017 Review and Awards.
2018 Tactics and Bookmaker Festival Offers - Check T&Cs
My personal betting strategy for Cheltenham 2018 - Never ever written one down before, lets hope its useful. In the last 6 Festivals and since doing Gaultstats I have made £3600 profit. That's £600 a festival, and I know, its no fortune. Keep thinking every year I am due a 'mare. Surveying my ante post book of good ground animals, this could be it. But chin out, lets get on with it.
I intend to back a lot of Irish trained horses at or near the top of the handicap. Phil didnt do them any harm. Ireland are twos on to win Betbright Cup and I do get the feeling from listening to preview nights, that English commentators and trainers are concerned about the strength of their NH product. I can't see a rout but people like Alan King could be seen to be ducking the challenge ('We are going to be light on the ground'). Willie Mullins and Gordon Elliott have a lot of firepower. They do run a lot. Paul Nicholls will fight for what he can get and has to be respected. Intend to try to be flexible and remember the Momentum Theory. The 2018 wonderful GC Stats say it is between Might Bite and Road To Respect with Edwulf just behind. My view is that the latter is too big a price for an Irish Gold Cup winner.
There, that's enough. Lets hope it works. And have the good grace not to ruin everyone else's time if it goes txts up. But we are on holiday. Three of us on the couch in Bangor, North Down. We will try, but not too hard, to avoid GOSEA (Groundless Optimism Syndrome Encouraged By Alcohol). Got a touch of the condition this time last year when in the Cotswolds. If you are there, and even if you're not, have fun.
And please don't forget to give.
Remember Skybet are NRNB BOG all races. Fine offer.
Sean Grahams Monday Night Belfast Preview - Ronan goes 5/1 Supasundae, Stayers, Apples Shakira 4/1 Triumph Hurdle in the shops to a max of £25. To be honest, didn't have me jumping up and down and racing out the next morning. Thought there was room for a special treble there.
2nd March - Ladbrokes in the Supreme. If you back the winner, they will double your winnings with free bets up to £50. Valid to use for 24 hours. More like it. Basically not scared to give free bets if the Favourite wins the Supreme
Betway - Free bet up to a £10 if you lose in First or Last Race each day. Same offer as 2017. Not likely to make me run to their site. Would I remember to use free bet?
Corals on the Supreme Novice. Free bet up to £25 if your first selection loses. Free bet to be credited by 12 noon the next day. Must be used within 24 hrs. Also money back free bet up to £25 if your selection falls in any Festival race. The Tesco. Every little help.
Paddypower will give you free bet up to £10 if the favourite wins any race on Day 1 and you don't back it. Not bad at all. To be used if you are not going to back a short priced favourite.
(A Supreme Free Bet Strategy - Use the whole lot to back Getabird at hopefully 2/1. If wins liability should be £80. You win £160 and £50 in free bets from Ladbrokes. However if he loses, you get £55 of that £80 back in free bets which you need to remember to use on the Wednesday. Also use the Paddy Power £10 to back something to cover that £25. If that loses but is second to Getabird, you get that £10 as a free bet. Should feel to be a bet of £25 to win £210 Getabird).
Bookies early (ie in the morning) - Betfair Late. Overrounds on the Pricewise tables in the morning close to 100% (thanku Matt Tombs). Average SP overround for G1s 2016 and 2017 was 120% for the 14 G1s, for the 10 handicaps it was 134%. It stands to reason that the best prices will be before lunch. WHills (see 2017 review) well known for standing prices for longer over these four days.
1st March - Ladbrokes, Corals, Boylesports, BetVictor join the NRNB party.
20th February - Skybet 1st Race each Festival Day. Up to £20 back as a free bet if your first bet loses. Same as last year and fair.
January 10th Paddy Power, BET365 and Skybet go NRNB.
To look back on previous races go to BET365 Services/live streaming/results and archive. All UK and IRE races for free. Nice touch. All replays back this year on Racing Post Site.
BETFRED, TOTESPORT only online bookies to give triple odds one winner in Lucky 15s. But BOG does not apply. Do not do this bet with PADDYPOWER online. NO bonus given for only one winner. Quite mean and hard to believe that they even offer punters a Lucky 15 bet. The bonus is what it's all about?
2017 Review and Awards
The 'Best Offer' Trophy (Large Bookmaker Category)- This goes to Skybet for their money back as a free bet if your first bet lost in the first race on each of the four days. Down from £25 in 2016 to £20 last year (and like all the big bookies, continuing to cut margins). But we made full use of it. I know its not money back and its just another go and all free bets had to be used by the end of the Festival but its ok. A Tesco. Every little helps. Eased the Melon and Neon Wolf pain a little for some.
Commended - Gone are the glory days when Paddy would adorn his funny tin hat and we would all construct books for real money back if the fav won the Supreme. However in 2017 Powers gave free bets up to (again) only £20 if your horse finished second without any other conditions. Just in the first five races each day. Kept it simple. A fair enough deal which would have also helped to ease Melon, Fox Norton, Wonderful Charm. In 2016 it was every race, every day. No idea why the change but it won't be for the good of small punters. Star Sports tried to get involved, if unplaced first race, free bet up £50 on any other race that day. Well done. I will have to investigate you.
The 'Its All Too Confusing' Salver - Joint Winners - Ladbrokes - Mullins Money back - One race a day. Money back up to £25 if Willie's good thing wins. A teaser to stop you backing them, offer hard to find in the comic. Didn't stand out. Corals - Day 1 £10 in free bets for tomorrows Neptune when you bet a total of £25 on any Tues Cheltenham market. Lost the will to live after half a dozen words. You would forget to use these even if you were due them. Note to firms - All punters are very busy over the 4 days. Keep it simple, please. And these are a bit petty for such big firms, I thought, even for a nerd like me. Corals did go 6 places there own race and money back free bet on GC day any fallers up to £25. A little bit different and a Tesco.
The 'Also Rans' included
Hills - Their High 5 nonsense - 25% bonus or Money Back Second on any race that is won by five or more lengths. What does all that mean? Altior, Cause Of Causes, Road To Respect, Defi Du Seuil wins were their only liabilities. Disappointing for the big firm after the 'sharp intake of breath' offer in 2016 when they offered to returns all losing bets on Day 1 (real money) if Willie's Big 4 won on Day 1.
Betway - Max free bet of £10 if your horse loses in the first or last race. Why those?
Boylesports - Free bet if 2nd or 3rd to the SP Fav or faller at last fence. Again too difficult. Its slighty better than their usual 2nd to SP fav but its just a take on the usual con. No horse has ever been trained to finish second to the SP Fav unless in a four runner race when the jollie is 1/3. Oh, that's the race where the offer doesn't apply. But you won't know that from their advertising. In the RP and unlike other big bookies, Boylesports regularly do not put their T&Cs on the bottom of the page advert. So you will only know if you don't have a free bet if you go to cash in your docket or, nothing happens in your account. You then have to make a decision to waste time ringing customer services to ask why. Not worth it. Like trying to fight with Ryanair. And they know that. Those under 10/1 for most free bets last year Whisper, Bapaume, Mega Fortune, Top Notch, Disko, Sub Lieutenant. I don't think they were knocked over. And yes, they closed my account sometime ago. I may have been £1000 ahead, if that. Ergo rant.
Betfred, Stan James, Betfair Sportsbook, BetVictor - No change from a normal Saturday. Didn't care. Could someone let them know the dates of the Festival this year?
THE 'BOOKIE OF THE WEEK' GOLD CUP- Difficult choice in 2017. Disappointed. I don't think they competed at all. Its like they had a meeting and said, 'why are we fighting against each other, there is plenty for all.' I look at this award and think as to which bookie's site am I going to wake up on a Festival morning and immediatley turn to. This year's award goes to SKYBET, best offer above, usually the first to go six, even seven places and the Request A Bet offer does make it fun. But last year there was no 'goodness, that's some offer' feeling. Hills' High 5 advertising was a distraction from the well enhanced prices they were offering on the same advert e.g. Melon 4/1, Cantlow 4/1, Yorkhill 2/1. But on Gold Cup Day they offered no enhanced early prices at all in the same ad. It was again like, well 'the mugs are going to bet anyway so why bother, we will get their money.' Hills take the RP space below the Pricewise column in the comic. In 2016 it read 'Ignore Prices Above - WHill won't be beaten on price'. And they weren't. Along with BET365 they matched or bettered all Ladbrokes. Paddy Power and the others. I especially remember Ballyandy in the bumper about lunchtime. They seemed to be going toe to toe. Unfortunately for us punters, the same space didn't say the same thing in 2017. It just read 'see our early prices above' BET365, WHill, Betfred and 188Bet are the only one left giving you the Pricewise prices. I suppose we should be grateful but I have given up trying to get a score on at 9am.
MENTIONED IN DEPATCHES - BET365 keep up with HILLS on best price especially in the mornings. That's good. Others run away quickly, even on these huge days. BET365 could do with freshening up the PR. Pat Cooney is hardly a fast talking youngster, Ray Winstone grates and the colour and format of ads in the Racing Post haven't been changed in years. The rest of them do change, regularly. If some other firm has gone more places, especially Skybet, you will find BET365 matching them quickly. Also the free bet thing if you have a TV winner at 4s and above but you have be careful to remember about that. It has to be used on the next TV race, and I used to forget, all the time. My favourite site too. I think it might be the shade of green but it just feels less cluttered than Hills, Ladbrokes and especially Corals. More's the pity that they refuse to take my custom any more. Another big winning account, I don't think.
SPECIAL MENTION to my local firm Sean Grahams (Best Offers Award). In 2016 on the stage in their Preview night Ronan went 3/1 Vautour nrnb Ryanair (Max £200). Inside 18 hrs had to tweet 'knocked over'. Can't have been happy when Willie changed the horse from the GC that year. In 2015 it was well enhanced prices on Douvan (Supreme) and Un De Sceaux (Arkle). Not scared to give value even if those offers bound to sting. Last year they went 9/2 the treble NRNB Altior (SP 1/4) Douvan (2/9), Unnowhatimeanharry (5/6). The SP treble paid under 2/1. Tuesday, 10am, the next morning after the Belfast Preview and seven days before the Festival, I was fourth in line in one of their shops to get this. And it wasn't tenners being put on by the ones in front of me. Took Balls. How did they know?
I personally think that internet bookies are now so concerned with margins and knocking back winning punters that value has started to return to those punters who bet on course. Hard to believe but we see it turning.
In 2016 the Paddypower/Betfair Combo grossed £330 million in the first three months of the year from all gambling. Goodness knows how much it is now. They stated in their stock market report that £250 million of that was taken in four days in the middle of March. 7th March 2018, just the day this Festival when Racing pages and sites are somewhat busy with the Tuesday Six Day Declarations, they release 2017 results. Operating profit of £372 million. This week, of all weeks, make them bookmakers work for your cash.
Having said all of this (and maybe sounding like I know what I am talking about), rest assured that I try to get a lot of my betting done before the lunchtime three or four beers each Festival day. Groundless Optimism Syndrome coaxed by alcohol is a recognised Cheltenham Festival Punters Condition. We are all also on holiday.
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 (Gary). I take no responsibility for (but am keen to hear of) any factual errors. Previous years ‘stats on stats’ would suggest we may identify a decent priced winner from manageable groups every three or four races. I tend to improve as a tipster as the week goes on, possibly too worried on the Tuesday. 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.