By Jeremy Whitehead
Last Updated: 17th May 2018
The Cheltenham Festival is the most exciting and competitive four days of horse racing in the National Hunt calendar held every March. This year’s meeting is no exception.
Before you pile on any bets with William Hill, we thought it would be useful to let you know some key statistics. Like all stats and odds, they are there to be defied, but your punting will be more informed by them. So what are the key Cheltenham Festival stats you should know before betting? We’ve picked them out for you here.
Champions Henderson and Geraghty love to triumph
Seven Barrows handler Nicky Henderson has been the most successful trainer in Champion Hurdle history, with six winners, including hot 2018 favourite Buveur D’Air, who landed the 2017 renewal.
He has also saddled an unmatched half-dozen horses to victory in the juvenile four-year-olds-only race, the Triumph Hurdle. Barry Geraghty – retained rider of leading Festival owner JP McManus – has sat aboard three of Henderson’s Triumph winners. Geraghty is also the top jockey in the race, landing the spoils on five different mounts overall.
Walsh the rider to beat
Despite that, it’s another Irish horseman who has proved indomitable around Prestbury Park, because Ruby Walsh has been top jockey across the four days at nine of the last 10 Festivals. This is due to partnerships first with Paul Nicholls and now top Irish trainer Willie Mullins.
Walsh has ridden more than 40 winners – an average of over four per Festival – during the last decade. He’s sure to be booked for some sweet rides again this year.
Mullins a hot handler
Those successes in the saddle for Walsh are also reflected by the mighty Mullins being top Festival trainer in five of the last seven years, although he was pipped to that honour in 2017 by compatriot Gordon Elliott. Mullins has given a leg up to 29 winners at the Cheltenham spectacular since 2013 and looks sure to add to his overall tally of 54.
Two Festival prizes to have eluded Mullins so far, meanwhile, are the Queen Mother Champion Chase and the big one, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Henderson has a 50 percent strike rate in the 2m championship contest over fences during the last six years and Altior is well-fancied to enhance that recent record.
Three of the last four Gold Cup-winning horses have been trained in Ireland, but each by different handlers. Can the British contingent wrestle this blue riband event back from Emerald Isle raiders?
What about the handicaps?
If you’re looking at market principals for one of the 10 handicaps held at the Cheltenham Festival, then you might want to think again. These ultra-competitive races are notoriously tricky for punters to pick the winner, but plumping for the SP favourite isn’t wise as just seven have come in since 2011.
That’s a favourites success rate of just 10 percent. The last market leader to win a Festival handicap was Fingal Bay in the 2014 renewal of Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. Will the hoodoo continue?