The 2023 edition of the Cheltenham Festival followed the same path as many before it.
There were fantastic storylines, epic victories, some bruising defeats – see Mark Walsh’s brutal collision with a fence post courtesy of Corbett’s Cross – and a litany of favourites and outsiders obliging for those that had backed them.
🚨 HUGE drama in the Albert Bartlett!
Corbetts Cross runs out at the last with Stay Away Fay staying on best to land the G1 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle to strike for @CobdenHarry & @PFNicholls #CheltenhamFestival pic.twitter.com/Db10x0z4Pd
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 17, 2023
It’s always an interesting event from a betting perspective. On the one hand, these are the best National Hunt horses from Britain, Ireland and overseas, so the races should be competitive with quality throughout the field.
And yet the masters of their craft did the business regardless of the competitive nature of their betting heats – see Constitution Hill demolishing the field in the Champion Hurdle or Galopin des Champ’s regal victory in the Gold Cup for confirmation of that.
All of which got us thinking: which races at the Cheltenham Festival are most likely to be won by the favourite? Which see a higher percentage of outsiders prevail?
Armed with the last five years of results, let’s take a deep dive into the numbers.
Festival of Favourites
So, let’s get stuck into each Cheltenham Festival race and the number of times it has been won by the SP favourite in the past five years:
It’s two of the earliest majors on the schedule – the Champion Hurdle and the Arkle – that are most likely to see the favourite prevail.
The Gold Cup and specialist races such as the Cross Country Chase are also happy hunting grounds for market principles, although you’ll notice that of the 28 races at the Cheltenham Festival, the favourite has failed to win once in the last five years in three of them.
There was a slight curiosity at the 2023 edition of the Festival, where nine favourites prevailed but with seven of them coming in the opening two days of the meeting on the Old Course.
That layout generally favours speedy frontrunners, while the Old Course generally sees a slower tempo and emphasis on staying – that opens the door to outsiders, especially when the rain comes down like it did in 2023.
Which Cheltenham Festival Races are Most Likely to Be Won by Outsiders?
Now that we know which races are most likely to be won by the favourites at the Cheltenham Festival, what about those most likely to be taken by an outsider?
In this case, we have defined an ‘outsider’ as a horse that was priced outside of the top 50% of runners in the field.
Winning Cheltenham Festival Outsiders – 2019 to 2023
- Grand Annual (3)
- Maskada (22/1), Global Citizen (28/1), Croco Bay (66/1)
- Coral Cup (3)
- Commander of Fleet (50/1), Heaven Help Us (33/1), William Henry (28/1)
- Stayers’ Hurdle (2)
- Sire Du Berlais (33/1), Lisnagar Oscar (50/1)
- County Handicap Hurdle (2)
- Faivoir (33/1), Belfast Banter (33/1)
- Festival Hunters’ Chase (2)
- Premier Magic (66/1), It Came to Pass (66/1)
- Mares’ Hurdle (1)
- Marie’s Rock (18/1), Eglantine Du Seuil (50/1)
- Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (1)
- Eglantine Du Seuil (50/1)
- Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup (1)
- Chambard (40/1)
- Ultima Handicap Chase (1)
- Vintage Clouds (28/1)
- Boodles Juvenile Hurdle (1)
- Jeff Kidder (80/1)
- Arkle Chase (1)
- Put the Kettle On (16/1)
- Albert Bartlett Hurdle (1)
- Minella Indo (50/1)
There’s two renewals in particular that are ideal for those seeking a long-odds winner. The Grand Annual Handicap Chase has been won three times in the past five years by an outlier, with Croco Bay becoming one of the longest-priced winners at the Festival in recent memory when he prevailed at 66/1 in 2019.
There’s been a 60% hit rate for outsiders in the Coral Cup in recent times too. Commander of Fleet, a 50/1 chance in 2022, the best priced of them.
The Place to Be
The 2023 edition of the Cheltenham Festival was extraordinary for the number of horses that placed at 40/1 or longer.
All told, nine horses made it into the frame at such lengthy prices – these each way chances can pay out just as well as winners at the Festival for the most part:
Cheltenham Festival 2023 – Biggest Priced Placed Horses
|Affordable Fury||Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle||150/1||2nd|
|Gevrey||Plate Handicap Chase||125/1||4th|
|Shantou Flyer||Festival Hunters’ Chase||50/1||3rd|
|Bronn||Brown AdvisoryNovices’ Chase||50/1||3rd|
|Notlongtilmay||Turners Novices’ Chase||40/1||2nd|
|Captain Teague||Champion Bumper||40/1||3rd|
|Dashel Drasher||Stayers’ Hurdle||40/1||3rd|
|Green Book||Pertemps Final Hurdle||40/1||4th|
Affordable Fury’s fantastic run to second place in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle landed punters a handsome 150/1 each way payout. With punters taking four or more places in the Magners Plate Handicap Chase, they could have soaked up a 125/1 placer in Gevrey.
In the past five years, 21 horses have placed at 50/1 or greater at the Cheltenham Festival. The Mares’ Novices Hurdle has been the best facilitator with four long odds placers in recent times, with Rayna’s World the pick of the bunch at 100/1 in 2022.