Checking the Cheltenham Pre-Race Markets

Checking the Cheltenham Pre-Race Markets

This article was taken from the latest newsletter developed by our sister service over at One of the services that proofs to this site – The Market Examiner, helped perform some very interesting research into market movers at Cheltenham Festival. Should you take notice of a horse that drifts in price or shortens significantly before the off? This research reveals all, including some useful strategies that you may want to utilise this coming week!

For more information on The Market Examiner visit their site or check out their page on Racing Proofing.

Over to Sam from the service…

“At The Market Examiner, we specialise in morning odds moves, where we closely study market changes, using a set of criteria to pinpoint profitable selections.

But with the excitement of Cheltenham just around the corner we thought we would take a look at whether late market moves before each Festival race is off are any sort of guide to a horse’s possible success.

Considering that many of the Cheltenham races are priced up several months in advance, the market has a terrifically long time to become stable, established, and therefore, you would probably imagine, efficient. So when we hear Big Mac screaming at us that a 25/1 shot has been backed into 16s, should we take any notice? After all, the 6/1 favourite, drifting to 13/2, may have already been punted down from 25/1 a couple of weeks earlier.

We’ve looked at the price of every horse which has run at the Festival over the last five years, from opening show to SP. When a horse has touched a certain price or two, but returned to its original price for its SP, we have marked him or her as unchanged.

The findings are quite interesting.

From 2006-2010, 2,392 horses raced, and of these – 595 shortened in price (24.9%), 512 lengthened in price (21.4%) and 1,285 stayed the same (53.7%).

Of the 125 races, 46 were won by a horse which had shortened up (36.8%), 34 were won by a horse which had lengthened in price (27.2%) and the other 45 won by a horse whose odds had been unchanged (36%).

So we can see, that horses that shortened in the betting ring (and therefore almost certainly on the exchanges) just prior to the off, well outperformed those who drifted or stayed the same. They won over 10% more of the races than they should have been entitled. Intriguingly, those horses which drifted also won slightly more than they should, while those whose odds which were stable underperformed. However, strike is is not the same as profitability. For the complete picture we need to look at performance in relation to the odds on offer…

So is there any way to make use of this information this year?

Well, of the 50 Festival handicaps in the last five years in which at least one horse shortened immediately pre-race, 22 were won by a horse which had shortened in the market (from 266 candidates). Backing each one blind at SP would leave us with a loss of -37.5pts. However, if we look more closely at the SPs of these winners, we find that only one came at 20/1 or bigger (Thousand Stars in last year’s County Hurdle (25s into 20s)). If we eliminate those bigger priced selections, we are left with 21 winners from 188 efforts (average win price 8.88/1), and a 19.5pt profit at industry SP, or 10.37% ROI.

If we look away from the handicap races, we are left with a much more sorry story. 329 selections were backed down in price pre-race, 24 won, with an average SP win price of 7.61/1, leaving the bank down by 122.42pts. It appears then that in these cases, horses shortening in price don’t win often enough for you to profit from the shorter odds. So if looking at market moves, it may be best to stick to handicaps.

What about those festival “bankers”, which open up on course at 2/1 or shorter, and are backed further in before the off? There have been 16 such contenders over the years, but only 5 had gone on to win, leaving us with a level stakes loss of 4.67pts. The list of infamous casualties include Detroit City (6/4 in the ’07 Champion Hurdle), Kauto Star (10/11in the ’08 Gold Cup) and Voy Por Ustedes (4/5 in the ’09 Ryanair Chase). Maybe a strategy for the layers?

So what is our conclusion? In general, it seems that ‘following the money’ is not an easy route to riches at the Cheltenham festival, but by focusing on specific races such as handicaps, you might be able to prosper. Rumours of betting coups abound at Cheltenham, but quite often these can be little more than Chinese whispers. In the case of festival bankers, it could pay to ignore or even do the opposite of the late money flow”

Cheltenham Festival Preview: Paul Jones on the Fred Winter Handicap

With Cheltenham just around the corner, we’re keeping tabs on a number of festival previews. Paul Jones comes with a good reputation and we’ll be previewing his antepost service and Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide in our February edition.

Paul has kindly sent us an extract from his Cheltenham Festival guide, focusing on the Fred Winter Novices’ handicap. The full book is available at and costs £12.95 + £2 post and packaging. We hope to preview the full book in the February edition. Here’s the excerpt with analysis of the Fred Winter taking place on Wednesday the 16th.




Although the ‘Fred Winter’ is developing a number of very strong patterns so early in its existence (remarkably I’ve found as many as 12 worthy of being listed in the Trends Summary), I am aware that this may come across as a blatantly obvious statement but, trying to finding the handicap blot is key here and, boy, was there one last season as Sanctuaire left his rivals stone motherless dead. Paul Nicholls knew it beforehand. All he would say when discussing the race at the Sandown Preview Evening was: “He’ll win” and not a word more. French-bred hurdlers have really come to the fore in this race but take note of the top-rated horses from the Flat too as they have won or finished second in three of the six runnings. No new trends to add this season, only a strengthening of existing ones which is what I like for winner-finding purposes and Sanctuaire ticked virtually every main box 12 months ago hitting the crucial ones square on the head.


Yet another 1-2 for last-time-out winners in last year’s race so that is three years in succession now, and the fifth consecutive year that the winner had also won its previous outing. In fact, the only ‘Fred Winter’ winner not to have been successful on its previous start was Dabiroun in the inaugural running (and he was beaten in a Grade 2 hurdle) but the race has now found its feet. On average, one-third of the field come into this race off the back of a win so it is not like the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, for example, where most contenders are coming off the back of a victory so I will be making this my number-one priority before I start looking at other factors. The success rate of last-time-out winners is also very much in-keeping with the Festival handicap hurdles in general since 1993 where almost half of such races (27-55) were won by last-time-out winners from under 20% representation.


Sanctuaire fitted the profile on so many factors last season, another being the curious stat that every ‘Fred Winter’ winner had been beaten on its first two starts over hurdles. In fact, the first three horses home last season had been beaten on their first two juvenile hurdle races. That’s some stat when we consider that five of those six winners then won on their final start before the Festival which is remarkably similar to the chasing equivalent race at this meeting, the Cententary Novices’ Handicap Chase (formerly the ‘Jewson’). Perhaps it is not so curious a stat given that well-handicapped horses tend Continue reading