Starting prices of winners in Cheltenham grade races and handicaps
Cheltenham Festival betting
The Cheltenham festival is no stranger to serving up some tasty priced winners, whether it is in grade races and/or handicap contests. The latter often sees hefty outsiders upsetting the odds while the graded events generally go to those at the head of the market. However, in the unpredictable sport that is horse racing one is all too familiar with longshots showing the favourites a clean pair of heels. But is there a succinct difference in the starting prices of graded race winners and Handicap victors?
Last year the largest handicap race winner was Chief Dan George in the William Hill National Hunt Chase at odds of 33/1. Compare this with the largest winner in a grade 1 event and one will find Bertie’s Dream who won the Albert Bartlett Novices at the same price. So not much distinguishing between the two races at a first glance, and while larger odds are common in both races, they tend to be more so in Handicaps. The letter of the law for Handicap races allows for more skill in the betting as horses are weighted accordingly and if all run to their handicap mark, it should theoretically finish as a dead-heat between all the runners. But big price winners are common at the festival in handicaps and if we take the aforementioned William Hill Trophy Handicap and analyse the winners of the last ten years – winners of 33/1, 50/1, 25/1 and 20/1 have gone in. This just goes to show the each way value there is to be had in handicap races.
Grade 1 events in the past have often gone to those at the head of the market. Take Kauto Star and Big Buck’s as two defining examples who have won the Gold Cup and World Hurdle twice before at odds against. The better the grade of a race will see only the top performers participate and these horses are fairly short in the betting because all hold very sound prospects. In the Gold Cup last year horses as high as 250/1 went to post yet rarely threatens against top class opposition who head the betting. However, Mon Mome was priced at 50/1 for this race last year and did manage third albeit a massive twenty-three lengths behind subsequent 7/1 winner Imperial Commander. While you may see 50/1 shots win Handicaps it is unlikely a horse this price will take one of the four major championship races, of which many go to single figure odds winners. There are as ever exceptions to this and there are shocks and upsets aplenty at the meeting.
So there is quite a line to be drawn between Handicap starting price winners and those who win top graded events. But the price shouldn’t put one off backing a selection and all too often the market in handicap races fails to guide towards the direction of the winner. As a general rule, one should not let the betting dictate and regardless of the SP, a horse who is well handicapped or is well up to the task of winning a top graded event should come in for some money.
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