Cheltenham Festival Review 2018: Complete

In depth Video Reviews + written ‘what i learnt’ post…


Settle down folks, put the kettle on, notepad at the ready (if you so wish) and let’s go… the videos below tell the story of Days 1 and 2. 

(ignore the length, they fly by, and you don’t have to watch…you can just listen 🙂 )

Through all videos I plot through my tips, the thinking, the stats, the races, the results , what went well, what didn’t, ‘horses to follow’, etc. It’s a bit off the cuff and mainly from memory, but with any luck I have included the odd snippet that you can apply to your own punting generally – or that may help you think about the Festival in a different way, adding to any profits in 2019. 

I hope you find them enjoyable, and it is much easier/quicker for me to record videos than to write word after word. (although I have now added some words at the bottom, if you’d rather read those.. the two mediums compliment each other well I think) 

Strap yourselves in… (and I apologise if at any time it comes across as ‘preachy‘ as that isn’t the aim- I am just very confident in my own approach to this particular racing week) 

13 races / 6 winners / 92 points

Vintage Clouds 3rd / Shantou Flyer 2nd / Knight of Noir UP/ Ms Parfois 2nd / Duel At Dawn UP /Testify UP/ Mr Whitaker WON 9/1/ Bleu Berry WON 28/1 /Barra 3rd/ Fix Le Kap / Turning Gold 5th/ Mastermind UP / Lovenormoney UP/  Sykes UP / Last Goodbye UP / Willie Boy Fell / Sugar Baron UP/ Final Nudge UP/ Missed Approach WON 12/1 / Flying Tiger UP /Whisky Sour 3rd /Brelade UP /Smaoineamh Alainn UP /Discorama 2nd  /Blow By Blow WON 12/1 /Dresden Fell /Some Plan Fell /Dolos UP /Kilbrichen Storm WON 50/1  / Mulcahys Hill UP/Western Climate /Billy Bronco /Regal Flow WON 25/1

This is how the week unfolded…










What I learnt from Festival Week 2018

A successful week for being flexible with my stats, both the race trends and the unique trainer/jockey/owner micro angles. This is clearly the route to go down. (whatever the ground!) Do not be blinkered by narrow race trends shortlists, use a ‘long list’ if needs be. Attack the race both with stats/trends, but also ‘fresh’, without stats, looking at the race as you would normally. I have been guilty of being too ‘stats led’ in the past.


Micros… the portfolio of stats pointers… the 5 micros, notes on trainers/jockeys/owners served their purpose as ‘starting points’, and were useful in helping to finalise selections/work out ‘savers’. Yet again a timely reminder that Festival week can be as much about people, their skills and behaviour, as it is the actual horses!


Race analysis/prep…at times I do need to take a breath and step back from analysis…and just take a moment to see what horses may be appearing against various angles. I have Vaneer of Charm (33/1) in mind predominantly – he hit my main race stats shortlist, and then 4 or so sub sets of race pointers. He also appeared in the micros for Elliot. Had I taken a step back to see just how many times he cropped up, in the context that my eyes were fixed on those priced 25/1+ anyway (due to their record in race) he would have been further up my thinking. Also a lesson in not bothering with ‘form’ in the Fred Winter, especially! Whatever they have done to date, esp for a trainer like Elliot, it does not matter.


Take the time to just reflect on which trainer’s horses are running well. Who has been getting their horses to finish in the top 6-8 regularly? Ponder this after each day and certainly after day 2. After days 1-3, the likes of Tizzard, Skelton and Nicholls had plenty of horses running well- those three would win 5 of the 7 races on the Friday. (with Elliot winning the other two!!) Mullins / Elliot / Tizzard / Skelton / Nicholls – it really could be that simple in the years ahead… with a sprinkling of Gigginstown horses trained elsewhere, a bit of Hobbs/King, and a few wins for smaller yards. Tom George clearly knows how to target a good’un also. Given how well Gordon was firing, my pin should have been closer to 2/3 of his, all hitting some sort of stats!

Gordon Elliot – not much to say generally but a) he can clearly pre an unexposed handicap chaser to run well in a big field here (The Storyteller) (I’d long clocked on to the handicap hurdlers) b) his overall stats with handicap debutants are poor, but he fired in a few at this meeting- so, beware the Elliot handicap debutant c) Tiger Roll… this man has an eye for detail… this horse had been to Cheltenham a few times in recent months apparently to school over these unique fences. No stone left unturned. Beware any Elliot horse in the Cross Country, even those who may not have run well on the X country course before



The handicap chase winners from the week often shared common traits… the majority arrived here in decent enough for, often with decent runs under their belts. I don’t think any such winners really arrived here out of form. Many arrived on the back of wins or close placed finishes. Those that didn’t had valid excuses- the likes of The Storyteller had run in a G1, Le Prezien had stumbled badly when closing LTO, game over. Asking a chaser to bounce back to form at this meeting is a questionable betting tactic. This can be applied more generally to my chase punting- it sounds obvious, but sticking to in-form horses isn’t a bad starting point or end point! Eg. Mr Whitaker W lto/Shantou Flyer 2 lto/Ms Parfois 2/Regal Flow W, and to a lesser extent Missed Approach 2…and those are just the ones I backed. Le Prezien W was ‘in form’ when last seen, bar for a stumble he’d have won or been a running on placed horse,2nd/3rd in a decent race (and hadn’t really run a bad race all season) and Coo Star Sivola W


Plenty of the handicap chase winners (and chase winners) had form at Cheltenham, many of them chase form and many of them recent Cheltenham chase form at that! Plenty had Festival form also.


Prominent racers/pace…yet again over fences, plenty of races were won by horses that raced prominently/lead/or were never too far back. Some did come from further but in general, you got a run for your money if you backed one that raced ‘up in the van’. Being out in front, able to go the pace the jockey wishes (provided he/she has the skill to do so) is still the best place to be in any horse race, especially over fences!


Ruby Walsh said something very telling the day before the meeting. In what was expected to be deep ground, he anticipated jockeys going a sensible pace, slower than usual, and the races turning into more tactical affairs- more down to the skill of the jockey. In many races throughout the week he would prove to be correct. Looking back I don’t think there are too many, if any, tips I would not have backed were it decent ground. It made more of a difference in negatively assessing the chances of some other runners I suspect, but in general I wasn’t fixated on slow old boats who may just keep going. (well, apart from Vintage Clouds maybe!)


Profile… a mix of profiles too the handicap chase/NH Chase races, but most of them were at the unexposed end, certainly in handicap chases, and arguably hadn’t shown their full hand to the ‘capper. And/or as above they were in form. The Storyteller had a similar profile to many a handicap hurdler… having been running in some decent G1-3 novice races  – small fields, maybe a class beyond him, tactical affairs… arriving at Cheltenham, bigger field, a handicap, (bit in hand), possible stronger pace (often, but not this year, better ground than they’d been running on all winter), resulting in an improved performance. Rathvinden was lightly raced for his age and had the odd decent run in G1/2s also. A touch of class- that is key…especially for the next race type…


Yet again, for the second year in a row that my eyes have fixated on this sort, the handicap hurdles were won by horses with very similar profiles…

  • Many/all were thoroughly unexposed in handicap hurdles
  • Most had form at some point in a big field hurdle- a few in maiden hurdles, 20+ runners, a few in handicaps – either recent form or at the Festival the previous year. This was some indication that they could handle such a field size and in fact that their best form could be when surrounded by horses and able to settle of a stronger pace. Running in big fields, in races run at a true gallop, is the reason for many horses stepping forward.
  • Many of the winners had been running in small field novice (G1/2/3) hurdles at some point this season, some running well. Some of them may have been running in races that have worked out well, and/or you will spot them having run in races won by horses who have already won at the Festival by the time you look at them. A couple of handicap hurdle winners had been chasing home Samcro in recent months. (applicable to the chasers also)
  • When you pull all of that together, and then add in any race stats pointers, and more importantly the main handicap hurdle protagonists- Elliot / Mullins / Henderson /Nicholls/ Skelton/ Gigginstown /Russell – and various micros associated with them etc, you get a potent mix which in general points to many a decent opportunity at 12/1 +
  • To a point, ‘form’ and what they have done on paper to date, in hurdles/handicap hurdles, is irrelevant. You are focussing on a lightly raced profile where, because of all those factors mentioned above, you expect improvement. Clearly it doesn’t come every time, but you’d be surprised how many horses this approach highlights that run well/win – and at decent odds. Arguably it’s a model to adapt to any higher-class handicap hurdle/festival, and indeed find ways to apply similar thinking to more run of the mill handicap hurdles in the week.



I only made one staking howler on the week really, ½ a point on the 50/1 Albert Bartlett winner. There were a few factors in that, touched on in the video- I had a final day points amount I was willing to blow, to leave us a guaranteed +20 up – I left this race last and only had 1 point left and my stats pointed to two horses. I wanted to remain disciplined. I’m not too annoyed, but maybe if I’d have analysed the race earlier, due to the stats pointing to 2 and my history with the race (tipped Very Wood at 50s in 2014 also, and another winner since), I may have found 1 point from another race and gone a bit harder! But, maybe that is being picky! Still, for some clearer thinking I could have an extra +24.5 points in the bank for no extra analytical work.

I maybe could have approached the Ultima and the Stable Plate better – well, I feared Coo Star Sivola and The Storyteller in their races but couldn’t bring myself to tip them at their odds. With the Ultima, I maybe could have gone 1 point EW on Vintage Clouds, (instead of a moronically bullish 2 points win!) and I could have just thrown the Elliot winner into the mix. But I was happy with the write ups and pointed strongly to having a saver on The Storyteller, which many did.

The forecast… an elaborate bet in my head and not an option I think of very often… but, when I tip just two horses in a race, especially at big odds, I should think about it more- only as a bit of fun, but I had the 350/1 1st and 2nd in the Martin Pipe. That isn’t the first race this season where I’ve had a 1-2. Although maybe that is recency bias, but you don’t need many to drop in, even for £2.50 bets.

I would have to go through all the numbers but I think my general win only approach won a fair chunk more than halving those stakes and going EW. That is how I like to play the game, and in any one Festival week I hate the thought of losing more than a 25 point bank. In general, bar the AB winner above, I was happy with how it went on this front.


I think that covers all the main themes/ideas etc!

With any luck there is something above you find interesting,

I’ll be making sure I read through this every now and then, and before next year’s Festival,

Thanks for reading,

p.s Any questions, or indeed polite criticism (Josh you’re talking boll***s again :)) is more than welcome as always…

p.p.s a list of ALL tips for the week, there for me to add to my tracker! The majority were unexposed and an in theory they may win one day!

Vintage Clouds 3rd / Shantou Flyer 2nd / Knight of Noir UP/ Ms Parfois 2nd / Duel At Dawn UP /Testify UP/ Mr Whitaker WON 9/1/ Bleu Berry WON 28/1 /Barra 3rd/ Fix Le Kap / Turning Gold 5th/ Mastermind UP / Lovenormoney UP/  Sykes UP / Last Goodbye UP / Willie Boy Fell / Sugar Baron UP/ Final Nudge UP/ Missed Approach WON 12/1 / Flying Tiger UP /Whisky Sour 3rd /Brelade UP /Smaoineamh Alainn UP /Discorama 2nd  /Blow By Blow WON 12/1 /Dresden Fell /Some Plan Fell /Dolos UP /Kilbrichen Storm WON 50/1  / Mulcahys Hill UP/Western Climate /Billy Bronco /Regal Flow WON 25/1


Post Comments

Do join in the conversation below, we're a friendly bunch.. all questions welcome, and do share your selections or thoughts

6 Responses

  1. Hi Josh, I enjoyed the videos. Some thoughts on days 1 & 2 that I dont think you mentioned.

    Supreme – Some say Kalishnikov and his jockey went too early? Maybe he did but the winner also had issues and yet still got up. The third got shuffled about and outpaced and then ran on. Western Ryder hit problems as well and can go closer in a well run race in the future.

    Arkle – Footpad won it well apart from one error. The front two went far too quick.
    The winner ran on but it may have been given to him on a plate?

    Champion – Melon was well backed late and ran a screamer.

    Ms Parfois – One for the Welsh National?

    Samcro – won it well off a reasonable pace. I would like to see her go for the Champion Hurdle but as he is Gigginstown will likely go over fences next season.

    Douvan – too far out to tell but going well. Altior showed himself to be a champion and beat a good horse in Min.

    1. cheers Martin,
      oh i’ll have missed plenty and I have just tried to focus on the races I tipped in. You could spend hours watching the races back etc, but may be wise to just follow the odd race and take any future runners on a race by race basis. I will follow plenty of the tips and keep an eye on them, as many were at the unexposed end and in theory there will be more to come one day.
      Maybe Jack will think he went too soon on Kalsh, but I have no doubt in my mind that the best/classiest horse on the day one. If he jumps fluently he wins by 10, and as such tactics on K wouldn’t have mattered – but here you have a horse who does need stoking, as we saw in the Betfair – he was riding him down the back straight – and they had full confidence in his stamina – he will stay further, so riding him that way made sense- it also arguably led to the errors in behind as Noel knew he had to close and that K wouldn’t be stopping.

      Ms P – hard to say she didn’t stay there – not sure, will be interesting to see what they do, I forget what her mark is , but she’d go well in a staying chase somewhere you would think. That ability to travel near the front and her jumping will see her run well in plenty more chases, if they decide to keep her going and dont breed from her just yet.

      Any such thoughts on other days much appreciated, enjoyed flicking through your horses/thoughts of interest… on to days 3 + 4… haha


  2. A lot of really good points in there, Josh, very thorough.

    Regarding forecasts my viewpoint is simple. If you regard both selections as value, then a multiple bet involving them multiplies the value.

    There are complications caused by the straight forecast not being settled as a double, it’s roughly add a point to the second multiply by the winner. And the bet is settled at sp.

    The reduction in multiplication factor is more than made up for, in my mind at least, because the second doesn’t have to beat the winner but its odds are from a market that includes the winner. Don’t know if there’s any maths to back that up.

    1. Isn’t the issue with doing forecast with most bookies that the dividend is based on the SP? So while you might perceive value at the time you place the bet, that could have gone by the off. 365 are different if you can get a bet on with them. They’ll give you guaranteed forecast odds based on the odds at the time youbplace the bet, plus a kind of BOG if the eventual forecast odds are higher

      1. Though I should say, that’s only if you do each forecast / tricast individually. If you select ‘any’ finishing position for the selections, it’ll just settle at the normal forecast price.

      2. Lost my access to 365 unfortunately.

        Yes, you are right, you still need to think there’s value at sp. And you don’t know what it will be.

        But the bookies haven’t restricted me yet for hitting sp forecasts. I suspect 365 don’t take kindly to people who hit forecasts at well over the odds.

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