The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most popular weeks in the National Hunt calendar. The best and the brightest from the world of jump racing gather together at Prestbury Park to take on some of the toughest jumps in the sport, with the Irish usually winning. There will be a wealth of punters that leave their bets until the day of the race, with some even going so far as to wait until the minutes before the event that they’re betting on is about to get underway before looking at what wagers they want to place on it, which is risky.
The sensible bettor knows that often the best thing to do is to bet ante-post, before the odds have come in too far and there is no value left in the wagers that they’re considering. This comes with its own risk, of course, thanks to the fact that you can end up losing your stake if the horse doesn’t run in the event that you’ve bet on it winning.
Thankfully with The Festival, though, by this time of year there are plenty of bookies offering non-runner no bet ante-post and some even offering it in combination with Best Odds Guarantee. This means you can get all the benefits of betting ante-post wagers while not risk losing your stake if it doesn’t run or sacrificing odds if the horse drifts out by the time the starting price is announced.
On this page we are looking at what we think are some of the best ante-post bets right now. These are horses where we think the odds will shorten by the day of the race meaning backing them ante-post could give you more value. You should, however, still choose a betting company with NRNB and BOG to cover yourself if the horse doesn’t run or the odds lengthen for any reason.
The Best Bets
Right now, we’re more than a month away from the Cheltenham Festival getting underway, so the suggestions made here are ones that look good as of this moment.
It is worth noting that not all horses will be longer odds right now, largely because people like to back them and the bookies don’t want to risk being given a shellacking.
As a result, popular horses like Paisley Park will have quite short odds even betting ante-post, whereas other horses that are likely to be in a race with him will be longer odds than they probably should be.
Zanahiyr – Champion Hurdle
At the time of writing, Zanahiyr is as long as 16/1 with some bookmakers for the Champion Hurdle. That is because Honeysuckle is the odds-on favourite for the race, with Rachael Blackmore looking to make it two wins in succession in the feature race of Day One, becoming the first horse since Buveur d’Air to pull it off. Given that Honeysuckle has won her last 14 races under rules, you’d be mad to ignore her excellent form and the brilliant relationship that she has developed with Blackmore over the past couple of years.
When there is an odds-on favourite for a race, though, that often leads bookmakers to ignore horses that might be able to given them a race. That is exactly what Zanahiyr did during the recent Irish Champion Hurdle, being the only horse to keep Honeysuckle honest. In the end, the Henry de Bromhead mare had too much and ran out a relatively easy winner. Even so, if she were to have a bad day at Prestbury Park then a bet on a horse that most recently offered her any sort of a challenge wouldn’t be the worst use of your money.
Mortal – Cross Country Chase
This year will see Tiger Roll looking to win the Cross Country Chase for a fourth time, having won it in 2018 and 2019 before missing out to Easysland in 2020 but coming back in style to reclaim his crown last year. Spot Thedifference, Native Jack and A New Story have all won the event as 12-year-olds, so it would be silly to rule out Tiger Roll at this stage in proceedings. That being said, his odds look shorter than they probably should be for a horse that is definitely heading towards the twilight of his career, so a look elsewhere makes sense.
If Gordon Elliott is to win the race again but Tiger Roll isn’t the horse to hand him the win, he’ll be hoping that Mortal can step up to the plate. At the time of writing, he is available for double-digit odds, which means he’s not even in the top five horses for this marathon race as far as the bookmakers are concerned. That seems long, especially when you consider how comfortable he looked when running over the same course and distance during the November Meeting. That was his first cross-country experience, so he looks a decent outsider with that under his belt.
Put The Kettle On – Queen Mother Champion Chase
All eyes will be on the battle between Shishkin and Energumene when the Queen Mother Champion Chase gets underway. That isn’t overly surprising, when you consider that the pair of them have been much-touted as being amongst the best chasers running at the moment. Indeed, it was a proper ding-dong battle between them during the Clarence House Chase at Ascot towards the end of January, with Energumene leading before Shishkin turned on the burners down the straight to win it by a length.
When it comes to ante-post betting, you want to look away from the favourites and never is that more true than when betting on the Queen Mother Champion Chase. In the last ten runnings of the race, five horses have been odds-on favourite but failed to win. As a result, it is worth having a look at the horses that would be well-placed to take advantage if that were to happen again. In the case of Put The Kettle On, there’s no doubt that his recent form hasn’t been great but he won this race last year, so knows what it takes to get into the winner’s enclosure. Given the length of his odds right now, that makes it worth a look.
Stage Star – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
When you’re thinking about decent ante-post wagers to place, looking for a horse that has done well in recent races but seems to be undervalued by the bookmakers is the essence of what you’re looking for. That is exactly what you’ll find with Stage Star, who has won by a combined amount of 20 lengths in her last three victories. That is an impressive total distance to have put between her and her competitors, so it’s little surprise that ante-post bettors are looking at the length of her odds right now and wondering what the bookies are up to.
Trained by Paul Nichols, she recently won the Challow Hurdle and that win resulted in her odds for the Ballymore coming in a wee bit, but not enough to be ignored. The one thing that is worth pointing out is that she is the definition of a risky ante-post wager, considering she’s apparently being aimed at the Novices’ Chase at Aintree a month after the Cheltenham Festival. If you can find a bookie that is offering Non-Runner, No Bet on ante-post wagers ahead of the Festival, Stage Star is well worth taking a punt on.
Paisley Park – Stayers’ Hurdle
Paisley Park’s odds will come in by the time the Cheltenham Festival rolls around. That is unarguable, considering the fact that he is one of the horses that people love to bet on, so punters will start to put their cash on him and bookmakers will respond accordingly. Right now, though, you can get longer odds on Paisley Park than you can on Champ, even though he defeated Champ by just shy of a length on Festival Trials Day. Paisley Park won this race in 2019 and tends to like Cheltenham Racecourse, so is hard to ignore.
The reason he’s an ante-post selection is precisely because of that phenomenon that sees people betting on him with chunks of money as the race itself draws nearer. Emma Lavelle has trained him brilliantly to hit form at exactly the right time, as we saw when he came from a few lengths back to beat Champ in January. That is the sort of performance that gains attention, but last year’s winner Flooring Porter is still the one that the bookies think has to be beaten, meaning that there is value to be found elsewhere.
Tornado Flyer – Ryanair Chase
You’d have to be an idiot to bet against Allaho in the Ryanair Chase, considering the manner in which he absolutely destroyed the field in this race last year. After that, Willie Mullins briefly experimented with him in a two-miler at Punchestown, but he returned to his normal racing style when winning the John Durkan Chase at the same racecourse in December. As always, though, when there’s an out-and-out favourite to bet on that just tends to mean that there is another horse flying under the radar that is worth a look.
In the case of the Ryanair Chase, that might well be Tornado Flyer, especially if you can get a bet on him with a Non-Runner, No Bet deal in place. Right now there is talk of him possibly being put forward for the Gold Cup, but given that Willie Mullins is likely to have both Al Boum Photo and Asterion Forlonge in that and Tornado Flyer is unlikely to cope with the extended distance, it makes sense for Mullins to target him at the Ryanair instead. Coming off the back of a win in the King George VI Chase, it is an excellent ante-post bet to consider.
Eric Bloodaxe – Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle
When it comes to the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, there’s a field that could be quite strong depending on which way the horses are pointed as the Festival creeps nearer. Horses like Journey With Me and Ginto might yet be running in races other than this one, which could result in the field opening up nicely as race day approaches. If that’s the case then one such horse worth having a look at is the excellently named Eric Bloodaxe, not least of all because he won a Grade 2 offering at Limerick in December.
The other reason to consider him is that his performance at Punchestown at the start of December was decidedly poor, seeing him come in seventh out of seven. That might seem like an odd reason to bet on a horse, but it has seen his odds get pushed way out, which is the entire appeal of ante-post betting. Over his last four outings, he’s won, not won, won and then not won, which suggests that he’s due one in his next race. The horse, which is named after a 10th century Norwegian ruler, enjoys races that ask him to show stamina, which the Albert Bartlett will.
Conflated – Gold Cup
All eyes will be on the likes of A Plus Tard and Minella Indo when the Gold Cup gets underway on the final day at Prestbury Park, to say nothing of those hoping to see another good run from two-time winner Al Boum Photo. As a result, there is plenty of value in an ante-post wager on the winner of the Irish Gold Cup, Conflated. Available for 50/1 in the build-up to the Leopardstown event, the eight-year-old was backed down to 18/1 before the horses came under starters order and eventually won it for Gordon Elliott.
With that in mind, the fact that he’s relatively long odds for Cheltenham’s blue riband event means that you’d be silly not to at least have a look at him. Once again, though, it’s back to looking for those Non-Runner, No Bet markets, given that Elliott was decidedly vague about where he might go next. Speaking after his win in Ireland, Elliott said, “We have the Gold Cup, the Ryanair, and the Grand National as options for him.” They’re obviously very different races, but it certainly looks as though stamina isn’t going to be an issue.
Given the prestige of the Gold Cup, it would be a surprise if Elliott didn’t at least think twice before moving Conflated on to a different event. His odds moved in for the Gold Cup after his performance at Leopardstown, but they’re starting to creep back out again now, as punters turn their attention to the names that they naturally associated with the race. That means that leaving it for a week or so might not be the worst idea, especially as bookies put more and more offers live for the ante-post market, but doing leave it too long. Pulling the trigger at the right time could be key.