Brendan Duke: My Cheltenham Festival Do’s and Don’ts

Need to get yourself prepared for the Greatest Show on Turf, then you need to stick to this great guide for the wonderful week of racing...


Cheltenham clues were fairly thin on the ground last weekend. Redicean, showing marked improvement in his jumping technique, won the Adonis Hurdle.

He looks a worthy second favourite for the Triumph Hurdle. Global Citizen put up the most eye-catching performance of the weekend with a rampant display in the Dovecote Novices´ Hurdle.

His trainer indicated he was likely to bypass the festival, heading straight to Aintree instead. He looks worth waiting for.

The Polar Vortex, great title but little else to recommend it, is likely to claim plenty of fixtures this week. As a consequence, I won’t be putting up any selections for the week ahead. Instead I bring you my Cheltenham guide, brought to you in association with the overworked people at Do’s and Don’ts Inc.

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Do the placepot

The pools will be massive and a little imagination can go a long way. If you can correctly identify a vulnerable favourite and solve the handicap riddles a handsome dividend should accrue. On a similar theme have a stab at a life changing multiple. Be it trying to go through the card each day or picking out a selection of horses to perm through the week.

Do go to a preview night

This cottage industry goes from strength-to-strength. It’s easy to see why and birds of a feather flock together for good reason. An evening spent among like-minded souls can only serve to heighten anticipation. The occasional juicy nugget can be gleaned from leading trainers/jockeys in a relaxed setting away from the traditional media glare. There’s also usually a charitable element to these things so what’s not to like?

Do treat your significant other and or dependents on the weekend before

Cheltenham is an immersive experience. Four days of virtual detachment from reality. It can take a heavy emotional and physical toll. The family can ease your burden by picking up the real-world slack. Pay it forward by showing them a good time beforehand. This may also help preserve the betting tank. Whoever backs the Imperial Cup winner anyway?

Do bet early

It takes two to tango. Paddy Power will be looking forward to the week as much as you. They covet your business. Competitive pricing coupled with money back/extra place specials give us every chance of making it pay. Guaranteed prices mean even if the price drifts later we don’t lose out. If pesky work commitments mean you can’t focus fully early in the morning, have a look at the overnight odds.

Do back Dingo Dollar today

The first handicap on day one is the Ultima Handicap Chase. This is always a hot heat and currently, the top end of the market is dominated by horses with question marks over their running plans. Granted there is a doubt about Dingo Dollar running too. However, this race is his only entry and the lure of Cheltenham is very strong. Should he run, the 25/1 would look a huge price about a horse with a very attractive profile. It wouldn’t surprise me if he went off close to favourite. If he doesn’t show the NRNB concession kicks in and we can reassess.

Don’t get patriotic

I learned this valuable lesson on my first trip to the Cheltenham Festival. The Stayers Hurdle of 2003 pitted reigning champ Baracouda against Irish folk hero Limestone. Convinced that the French win machine would defend his crown I went racing with every intention of backing him. Somehow swayed by countrymen insistent that Limestone could dislodge the immovable object I changed my mind and bet. Baracouda stood his ground and it turns out that patriotic tokens are not considered legal tender by local businesses.

Don’t be afraid of a big price

One of the beauties of such competitive racing is that horses you have supported at much skinnier prices can go off at significantly more rewarding odds. This is no reflection of wellbeing. Indeed, like almost every other horse at the meeting, their season will likely be geared around this race. Don’t second guess yourself. One big priced winner could pay for the whole meeting.

Don’t fail to prepare

Cheltenham is a midweek meeting and for some that means work can be unavoidable. Paddy has your back with live streaming of the races on the website/app. Whether you need to go to the extremes of a friend of mine and take up smoking for the week is debatable. Whatever it takes, have a think about how and where you can slip out for the five minutes necessary to watch the race. Alternatively record the racing and try to avoid all news until getting home. Easier said than done, but where there’s a will there’s a relative.

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