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Cheltenham Festival 2023 Preview, Tips and History

The Cheltenham Festival is right around the corner and now seems like the perfect time to delve into its history and prestige. We all know what the Cheltenham History is, yet not many of us know how it grew to become one of the world’s premier horse racing events.

To fully understand this, we need to travel back in time to 1860 - the heart of the Victorian period and the time where our modern sporting culture was in its infancy. The National Hunt Challenge Cup Race, a grade 2 steeplechase, was created and hosted across several different cities initially before finding its home at Cheltenham. By 1911, the Cheltenham Festival had been set in stone, with the National Hunt agreeing to keep it in its current location year-to-year.


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Early Years 

Horse racing events had occurred in Cheltenham before, some as early as 1819 (the first year of Queen Victoria’s reign) however it took almost a century before the Cheltenham Festival as we know it today would become official. 

It didn’t take long for the new festival to see a hiatus, though, as the outbreak of World War One rendered the event briefly obsolete. A hospital was erected on the site to treat the thousands of wounded soldiers before it closed in February 1919. The races continued shortly after. 

The festival expanded throughout the early 1920s, with the event increasing from a two-day celebration to a three-day one. The famous Gold Cup followed the year after, and the Champion Hurdle followed in 1927. Suddenly, the Cheltenham Festival - the cultural icon we all know and love today, was taking shape. 

The festival lacked a superstar, however, and it needed a household name if it was serious about propelling itself into the public consciousness. This is where Golden Miller comes in - the iconic horse who claimed five consecutive Gold Cups in the 1930s. 

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Golden Miller

The Post War Years And Today

World War Two caused the Cheltenham Festival, and every other sporting event, to be canceled from 1939-1945, and the editions following the War marked the start of the so-called ‘Irish invasion’ which is still felt today. 

Irish horses and trainers came to dominate the event and Cheltenham soon began to be hugely-anticipated in the country. Cottage Rake became the first Irish horse to win the Gold Cup in 1948, and many point to this as the catalyst for Cheltenham’s Irish infatuation.

In 2021, Irish trained horses won 82% of races despite only fielding 40% of the total runners. Willie Mullins, who is from County Kilkenny, has racked up a mind-blowing 88 wins at Cheltenham Festival over the years - becoming the most successful trainer in the Festival’s history. 

The rivalry between British and Irish horses dominates the Cheltenham Festival to this day. Nicky Henderson is currently the most successful British trainer with 72 total wins. 

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Nicky Henderson

Major Cheltenham Races

Some of the major races at Cheltenham include the Gold Cup, The Champion Hurdle, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, and the Stayers’ Hurdle. Considered the premier horse racing event in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the Cheltenham Festival has long established itself in the annals of European sport. 

Cheltenham Bankers And Outside Bets

Anybody with even a casual interest in horse racing has likely heard of Constitution Hill - the biggest banker ahead of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival. 

Trained by the legendary Nicky Henderson, the six-year-old winning-machine is certain to impress at this year’s events. Constitution Hill will be racing at the Unibet Champion Hurdle and the horse is the shortest-priced Champion Hurdle bet this century. 

Jonbon v El Fabiolo - Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Tuesday)

One of the most highly-anticipated clashes ahead of the 2023 Cheltenham Festival will be between Jonbon and El Fabiolo. Both horses have achieved a lot in their short lifetimes, with the former beating the latter at Aintree.

El Fabiolo has the better CV, but Jonbon has the edge. Six of the last eight market leaders have won the Arkle, so you may be tempted to swing with El Fabiolo for the time being. 

Sir Gerhard And Boothill - Outside Bets?

The Arkle headlines have rightly gone to Jonbon and El Fabiolo, but Sir Gerhard remains a promising outside bet at 33/1 and Boothill is priced at a huge 50/1, despite finishing only eight lengths behind Jonbon just three months ago. 

If you’re looking for outside bets at this year’s Arkle, both of these horses remain solid options. 



Energumene - Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase

Willie Mullins’ Energumene majorly-impressed at least year’s Champion Chase and the horse heads back to the hallowed Cheltenham with another victory in-sight. Energumene faces some stiff competition with the likes of Blue Lord, Edwardstone, and Constitution Hill, but if we’ve learned anything by studying past editions of Cheltenham, it’s that a Mullins-trained horse is always worth backing. 

It’ll take some serious competition to unseat the reigning champion, and Energumene remains a hot-favourite by tipsters. 

Gold Cup - Galopin Des Champs

The seven-year-old Galopin Des Champs is the favourite for the iconic Gold Cup, having the shortest-odds and being selected by a variety of noteworthy racing tipsters. 

It’s hard to find any standout faults in the horse’s performance and he’s a brilliant jumper with lightning speed. If that wasn’t formidable enough, the horse is in seriously good form, evidenced by his performance at Leopardstown last month. 

Gold Cup Outside Bet - Protektorat

With odds of 14/1, Dan Skelton’s Protektorat finished in third-place in 2022 and looks to be a good-value bet for this year’s Gold Cup. Odds of around 14/1 may not fill you with confidence, but the 8-year-old has proven he can hang with the best if he’s in the mood.

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Cheltenham Gold Cup

Gold Cup Focus

The most iconic of all of Cheltenham’s races is, of course, the Gold Cup, with the aforementioned Galopin Des Champs set to dominate this year’s edition. 

If you’re serious about finding betting success at the 2023 Cheltenham Gold Cup, here are a few things to look out for:

  • 21 out of the last 22 Gold Cup winners have been in the 7-9 age range, meaning that older contenders should be avoided
  • Of all of the Gold Cup winners this century, 20 of them had won at least one race prior to Cheltenham. Form matters 
  • Seven out of the last nine Gold Cup winners have been Irish-bred 
  • Big-priced winners are rare, with 18 out of the last 22 winners coming from inside the top-three favourites

Constitution Hill - Potential To Be The Greatest?

It’s too soon to tell if Constitution Hill will achieve legendary status, but all the signs point to a stunning career. Considering Honeysuckle is not even the favourite despite being unbeaten in 166 starts, it’s no surprise that people are raving about Constitution Hill - who had a rating of 177 at the end of the 21/22 season.

There are no guarantees in horse racing, but Constitution Hill becoming a household name is as close as you can get.



Cheltenham Festival Best Tips

Tuesday -  Arkle Challenge Trophy

Tuesday’s Arkle Challenge Trophy is one of the most famous races at Cheltenham. If you’re determined to find betting success at the event, here are few things you should consider:

  • Ireland has the upper hand in the Arkle Challenge Trophy, with 6 out of the last 12 winners being bred here. Just one horse from Great Britain has won in this time
  • 11 out of the last 12 winners have been between 6 and 7 years of age
  • 7 out of the last 12 winners have been the odds-on favourites

Wednesday - Queen Mother Champion Chase

The Queen Mother Champion Chase can be hard to predict, as only 5 out of the last 12 winners have been the favourites. Energueme is the favourite this year, but competition remains fierce. 

Thursday - Ryanair Steeplechase 

Thursday’s Ryanair Steeple Chase is tipped to win by Shiskin this year, and it’s worth noting that 6 out of the last 12 winners have been the favourites, with 11 of the last 12 being in the top-three. 

This makes a Shiskin selection all the more promising. If that wasn’t convincing enough, six of the last seven winners were trained in Ireland - just like Shiskin has been.

Friday - Gold Cup

With Galopin Des Champs favoured to win Friday’s Gold Cup, it’s worth considering that all of the last ten winners were under the age of nine (Galopin Des Champs is currently 7) as well as remembering that nine out of the last ten winners were rated 164 or higher. 

Noble Yeats could be a surprise package at the famous Gold Cup, but Galopin Des Champs remains the favourite in many tipsters’ eyes. 

 

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