“Class” is an essential factor a bettor should consider when handicapping the jump races at Cheltenham.  Class is inferred from the caliber of races a horse has been running in.  It projects how a horse measures up to the other horses in a given race on criteria of speed, pace, and stamina.  (Racing angles like class are available at Cheltenham betting tips.)

In other words, besides just looking at how a horse has fared in past races, a bettor needs to make a judgment about the level of competition the horse has encountered.  If a particular horse in an upcoming race appears to be in above his head that diminishes the importance of other elements such as who is riding him, the weight he is carrying, and the distance of the race.

Class can be determined by looking at the overall history of a horse.  Especially relevant for campaign veterans with substantial career starts are the last six or seven races; for younger horses with few or no prior races, estimating class is more elusive; for first-time starters, it comes down to reflecting on how well the horse is bred or how he has performed in workouts.

As with human athletes, equine competitors have their peak performance level.  An older horse that has been contesting ungraded races is unlikely to have the talent to take on the competitors in a Grade I or Group I event.  This is not a hard-and-fast fact, however, as there are many exceptions in which former claiming horses have won graded stakes.  Zeroing in on a horse that may be an exception to the rule opens the door for a savvy (or lucky) bettor to score big time.  Clues to a vastly enhanced future outing might include a recent change to a leading trainer or a dramatic improvement in form.

“Form,” as opposed to class, refers to how a horse has done in his most recent races.  A bettor can tell whether a horse is “on his game” or is “tailing off” by consulting the last two or three races.  When a horse has not raced in several months, the past couple of races may not be indicative of the horse’s current form.  In this case, it helps to consult statistics on how successful his trainer is in racing horses after layoffs of various lengths.

A horse like the once-formidable 10-year-old gelding Faugheen, is difficult to assess.  He has been a stellar performer throughout his career but is coming to Cheltenham to race after finishing second in his last start on March 2nd after being pulled up in a December 2017 race at Leopardstown in Ireland.  A handicapper might dismiss the old horse’s chances, thinking he has seen his better days, or, alternatively, glean that Faugheen’s second-place showing in his last race means that he is possibly coming to form just in time for Cheltenham.  Moreover, his trainer, Willie Mullins, is one of the best jump conditioners of all time and his horses are to be reckoned with whenever they are entered.

A horse like Faugheen has all the class one could desire in a chaser, but his form is in doubt.  This conundrum is typical of the challenges and opportunities of handicapping Cheltenham.

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