The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of jump racing in the UK and Ireland with four days of high-class action being served up.
Thousands of punters usually descend on the Gloucestershire town to soak up the atmosphere and roar on their fancies, but this year will be VERY different with all-but essential staff allowed onto the course – leaving the rest of us to watch on from home.
If you’re a newbie to the sport, but have found yourself confused by Yankees, Handicaps and SPs, here’s our guide to horse racing terms you may be hearing more about.
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Ante-post / Future Racing
A bet placed in advance of the final declarations (usually 48 hours now) in advance of the race. For example, placing a bet in February for a horse to win the Grand National, which is in April. The main thing to remember is that you won’t get your money back if the horse doesn’t run, so while the odds look good at the time, there is a large risk & reward element at play.
A roll-up bet involving more than one selection with the winnings from each selection going on to the next selection. All selections must be successful to get a return. I’ll land it, one of these days.
Balloted Out of a Race
This happens rarely enough, but if a horse is declared at the final declaration stage but fails to get a run because there is a safety limit of runners or maximum field size (again the Grand National, only 40 runners can take part on the day) you do get your ante-post / future racing bet refunded. Not as glamorous as it sounds, really.
Best Odds Guaranteed
Paddy’s promise that you’ll get paid out at higher odds. If the Starting Price (SP) is longer than the price you took earlier in the day, you’ll get paid this better odds price, once the Best Odds Guaranteed prices were active.
Here’s how it works: You’ve spotted what you think is a nice bet at 4/1 in the morning prices, but the market disagrees. It goes and wins anyway at say, 8/1, (well done you), but you’re slightly miffed that your returns at 4/1 are going to be half what they should be, given the starting price (SP) of 8/1.
However, if you placed your bet after 8am on the day of the race, Paddy’s Best Odds Guaranteed concession will have kicked in, so you will be paid at the higher odds of 8/1 rather than the 4/1 taken on the betslip! Huzzah!
Forecast / Reverse Forecast
Nothing to do with weather, instead it’s a bet where the aim is to predict both the winner and runner-up in a race. For reverse forecast, they can finish in either order.
Handicaps & Handicap ratings
Probably the most important factor is determining a horse’s chances of being competitive in any given race and should be looked at first before the ground, distance, quality of race etc. come into effect on race day.
Horses carry different weights according to their official rating. In theory, a handicap race should see most of the field cross the line together. In practice, we’ve yet to see that happen – except for a couple of dodgy photo-finish decisions. The majority of races that are run in Ireland and the UK are handicaps. A handicap is a race where each horse is allocated a weight to carry based on their ‘official rating’. (see example below)
A rating is arrived at based on what level of ability a horse has shown on the racecourse. This is usually gauged after three races on the track. The better the race the horse contests, the higher the rating he’s likely to have. That’s important. The theory is that horses running off different weights should all finish closer together as those carrying less weight are less talented and need this concession.
A profitable area of betting and one that bookmakers are always wary of is a a handicap debutant that has been shrewdly placed in previous races. They can often make a mockery of their ‘official rating’ when contesting their first handicap.
There are many ways that horses ended up running in handicaps. The most familiar routes are by coming from maiden races, juvenile races, dropping down in class from Graded races or stepping out of novice company. And a well-handicapped horse doesn’t have to finish out the back of the tellybox in previous efforts – many are frequently winners whose potential has either been underestimated or disguised by clever placing.
Let’s take the example of leading Cheltenham Champion Hurdle contender Saint Roi in the County Hurdle at Cheltenham last season.
An easy winner of one of the most competitive hurdles in the jump racing calendar last March, this was just his fourth start over hurdles – and notably his handicap debut.
Saint Roi had actually won his previous race at Tramore – a maiden hurdle – two months earlier and was given an official ‘rating’ or ‘mark’ of 137 for the Country Hurdle at Cheltenham 2019 which he won very easily.
He subsequently won a Grade 3 Hurdle at Tipperary in early October (above) from a revised rating of 151 (14lbs higher than his Cheltenham win) and despite being narrowly beaten in the Grade One Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown, now sits at 156.
That he can still be competitive off a mark 19lb above his initial Country Hurdle rating last March shows just how well handicapped he was at Cheltenham, despite the competitiveness of that race.
The trick is to realise that at the time though!
A selection that changes in price significantly either way, by decreasing in odds (steaming) or increasing in odds (drifting).
The best bet of the day that a tipster or your girlfriend’s brother’s mate nicks from a WhatsApp group he’s in. Not to be confused with what your Nan does during Bargain Hunt.
Patent (7 bets)
Another multiple bet that involves three different selections and seven separate bets (three singles, three doubles & a treble). Not to be confused with securing intellectual property rights on some invention and making your millions.
Starting Price (SP)
The price at which a horse is ‘returned’ after the race is run to determine the pay-out odds for winning punters. (See Best Odds Guaranteed above). My Granny always told me to “take the f*@$ing price”, as you don’t have any control over the SP.
Yankee (11 bets) / Lucky 15 (15 bets) / Heinz (57 bets) / Lucky 63 (63 bets)
A multiple bet consisting of 11, 15, 57, or 63 bets depending on your mood – and for Cheltenham week Paddy is doubling the odds if you have just one winner on this multiple bet. . These are multiple bets where you picks four / five and six selections in different event to try and get a maximum return form what can be a reasonably modest outcome. Simply, multiply your stake by the number of permutations, e.g £1 Lucky 15 = £1 x 15 bets ( 4 single bets, 6 doubles, 4 trebles, and 1 four-fold accumulator) for a total stake of £15.
One selection must win for a return in these bets (except for two in a Yankee (11) & two in a Heinz (57) which exclude the single bet element) . The theory is that the more winners you have, the more permutations kick into play as the doubles, trebles and acca’s roll up to give you a bigger return rather than backing each as singles. That’s the theory anyway!
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