Ireland Set to Dominate at Cheltenham Festival 2021

The Cheltenham Festival is the highlight of the year for UK steeplechasing fans. The best jumpers from both sides of the Irish Sea clash over four days of top-class racing.  Competition is fierce among the leading stables, while there is also the side issue of the Prestbury Cup–the battle between Great Britain and Ireland for most winners during the meet.

Ireland currently has a firm grip on the award after winning 17 of the 28 races at the 2020 Cheltenham Festival.  Early indicators are that it will be retaining the trophy with well over half of this year’s festival favorites trained in the Emerald Isle.  The strength of the Irish challenge was underlined at the February Dublin Festival, where trainer Willie Mullins won six of the eight Grade 1 races.

Mullins is currently the most successful trainer in Cheltenham Festival history with 72 winners.  He saddled four winners on the final day in 2020, claiming the prize for top trainer at the meet for a record seventh time. His horses will figure prominently in Cheltenham day 1 tips this year, starting with Appreciate It in the opening Supreme Novices’ Hurdle.

Mullins’ stable will be represented by Energumene in the Arkle Chase, having already won the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown.  That sets up a fascinating clash with Nicky Henderson’s Shishkin, the leading British hope and unbeaten in three races over fences.  Henderson will saddle reigning Champion Hurdler Epatante in the feature race on the opening day.  The mare bids to retain her title but faces a strong challenge from Ireland’s leading mare Honeysuckle, an impressive winner of the Irish Champion Hurdle for Henry de Bromhead.

UK Bookmakers will be bracing themselves for another Mullins four-timer on day 2.  Gaillard Du Mesnil, Monkfish, Chacun Pour Soi, and Kilcruit are all expected to start as favorites.  The second day will feature a make-or-break appearance for dual Grand National winner Tiger Roll.  His connections have indicated that the horse may be retired if he does not show any sparkle in the Cross Country Chase.  A victory could trigger an attempt to equal the legendary Red Rum by securing a third Grand National triumph.

Tiger Roll is trained by Gordon Elliott, who could have the shortest-priced horse of the week on day 3 with Envoi Allen. He has not been seriously tested over fences so far and is already being talked about as a future Cheltenham Gold Cup winner.  The third day features the Stayers’ Hurdle and a duel between 2019 winner Paisley Park and market rival Thyme Hill. They have clashed twice already this season with one victory apiece.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the climax of the Festival on the closing Friday. This is the blue riband event for steeplechasers over 3 ¼ miles.  Al Boum Photo has won this race for the past two seasons for Willie Mullins and bids to emulate Best Mate, who won in 2002, 2003 and 2004.  Mullins had been trying to win this prize for twenty years prior to Al Boum Photo’s 2019 victory.

The 9-year-old has enjoyed a perfect preparation, following the same route as in the previous two seasons. The two horses to emerge as potential threats this year are A Plus Tard and Royal Pagaille.

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By Harvey Mayson, who is a free-lance sports writer based in Scotland.

Horse Racing Business 2021

CHOOSING AN ONLINE WAGERING SITE

Horse racing attracts bettors from all over the world.  Though many of them still enjoy the experience and atmosphere of actually being and betting at a racecourse, online wagering sites provide a convenient place to bet. In 2020, online sites have been the safest place–and often the only place–to bet during the Covid-19 pandemic.

While there are many benefits to placing bets online as opposed to in-person, it can be confusing to determine which betting site to patronize. Bettors, of course, have different preferences and priorities. 

Following are some of the key factors that can help one to decide which wagering site is the best choice to suit individual needs and wants.

Betting Promotions

All betting sites have welcome offers for new customers that can be claimed upon registration, and these can include free bets or a deposit bonus.

Ongoing promotions are also available for existing players, and these can be more valuable in the long run even if the sign-up offers appear more lucrative at first.  Horse racing-specific deals include money back if second, extra places, and non-runner no bet.

Best Odds Guaranteed

Whereas some betting offers can be found only with a handful of online sites, Best Odds Guaranteed is offered by the vast majority of the top betting sites on the market.  When using Best Odds Guaranteed, a winning bettor gets paid at the larger odds if a horse’s price turns out to be greater at the start of the race than when the bettor backed it.

Betting sites set a time frame during which bets qualify for Best Odds Guaranteed, often between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. on the day of the race.  In most cases, only UK and Irish races qualify.

Live Streaming

Online betting sites offer not only a platform for wagering, but most also carry live streaming from a plethora of domestic and international racecourses from various time zones. Often, the feed is slightly ahead of the television coverage so it is the way to stay up to date, especially if a bettor wants to place wagers while races are in progress.

Mobile App

Online wagering sites pay close attention to their mobile product, and they all have either a website optimized for smartphone usage or a mobile app.

For ease of use, some betting sites are better options than others for accepting mobile bets.  For example, betting apps that have Face ID and/or touch ID login allow a bettor to quickly access a website and wager.

Past Performance and Data Analytics

Horse racing betting sites typically provide past-performance data, and some take it a step further and provide analyses and insights.  This information lends context to a race and enables bettors to make informed handicapping decisions.

And, In Closing

No matter whether a bettor is seeking to find an online wagering site solely for big events like the Cheltenham Festival or intends to bet on horse racing on a regular basis, options abound.  Since signing up with a wagering site is not a major commitment—and they each may have slightly different promotions and odds—it might be worth having an account with several of them.

PREMIER BRITISH AND AMERICAN HORSE RACES TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic played havoc with the 2020 racing calendar, which had to be modified. In addition, fans were not able to attend most of the top events, but were still treated to plenty of high-quality action via television. With the advent of vaccines, 2021 looks more promising for a return to a normal schedule of races with fans in attendance.

European online sportsbooks have already got ante-post markets up for next year’s biggest meetings, and bettors are starting to lock in their wagers on races in the UK, Ireland, USA, and elsewhere.  Here are a few showcase events for 2021.

Cheltenham Festival – March 16th-19th

Last year’s Cheltenham took place in front of a packed crowd, in what was one of the last sporting events with fans present before lockdown.

Fans may be able to return to the stands in 2021, at least a limited number, but regardless of whether they can or not, it will be competitive cards of racing across all four days.

At the time of writing, Epatante is a 3/1 favorite for the Champion Hurdle on most horse racing betting sites, and Chacun Pour Soi heads the market in the Champion Chase on Wednesday, March 17. 

Sire Du Berlais, Paisley Park, and Benie Des Dieux are difficult to separate in the Stayers Hurdle, and the Cheltenham Gold Cup is equally wide open, with Al Boum Photo, bidding for a third successive triumph in Friday’s feature race, considered a slight favorite.

Grand National – April 8th-10th

The Grand National was cancelled in 2020, so Tiger Roll was unable to try and make it three victories in a row at Aintree.  But trainer Gordon Elliot has confirmed that he plans for him to go again in 2021, even though Tiger Roll not won a race since the 2019 Grand National.

Current odds on Tiger Roll vary considerably, from 12/1 to 20/1, and the same can be said for Presenting Percy, who is also in Elliot’s stable.

Kentucky Derby – April 30th-May 1st

Having taken place four months late in 2020, on September 5, the Kentucky Derby returns to its usual slot on the first Saturday in May in 2021, with the Kentucky Oaks the day before on April 30.

At this year’s Kentucky Derby, Authentic sprung an upset over the favorite Tiz the Law, winning the ceremonial blanket of roses and $1.86 million.

Essential Quality, a 2-year-old with a perfect record, is a 12/1 favorite for the 2021 Derby.

Epsom Derby – June 4th-5

In early June, Epsom Downs plays host to arguably the most prestigious turf race in the world…and for sure the most prestigious turf event for 3-year-old racehorses.

Remarkably, in 2020, the top three finishers were at odds of 25/1, 50/1, and 66/1 shots, respectively, as the Aidan O’Brien-trained Serpentine prevailed.

High Definition is presently the favorite for the 2021 renewal, with a best price of 8/1.

Royal Ascot – June 15th-19th

Certainly the most historic and illustrious meet on the UK racing calendar, Royal Ascot is set for the middle of June and, as always, the very best stayers will be running, hopefully watched in person by royalty and thousands of fans.

Battaash is a slight favorite for the Kings Stand Stakes, while Stradivarius, who romped home under Frankie Dettori in the Ascot Gold Cup in 2020, is 4/1.

The Commonwealth Cup is wide open, but bettors like Supremacy, Campanelle, and Golden Pal.