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2021 Cheltenham Festival Tips - Top Five Handicap Trends

  • We bring you five important betting trends for the Cheltenham Festival
  • The 2021 Cheltenham Festival starts on Tuesday 16th March
  • All five trends focus specifically on the handicap races staged during the meeting
  • 76% of handicaps in the last five years have been won by horses carrying 11-00 or more
  • Form around Cheltenham is vital in the Ultima Handicap Chase
sire du berlais
Sire Du Berlais (right) winning his second Pertemps Final in 2020. (Getty)
Jon Vine 10 Mar 2021
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While there are still plenty of big races to be staged between now and the middle week of March, punters are already looking towards the Cheltenham Festival. Paddy Power has gone Non-Runner No Bet on all 28 of their Cheltenham markets, and betting markets for the eight handicap races have opened with most bookmakers.

In a bid to give you an upper hand, here are five important trends to keep in mind when placing your bets in the Cheltenham Festival handicaps.

2021 Cheltenham Festival Tips - Handicap Trends


Cheltenham Festival Trends - Back Novices In Handicap Chases


Last year, all five of the handicap chases were won by novices. True, the Close Brother's was only open to novices, but in the four other handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, it was a novice chaser who came out on top. Ultima winner, The Conditional was a second-season novice, while Simply The Betts, Milan Native and Chosen Mate all won big handicaps at the end of their first seasons over fences.

Four of the last eight Ultima's have been won by novices. First season chasers have won three of the last five Brown Advisory Plates, and the two most recent runnings of the Kim Muir were won by novice chasers. Chosen Mate may have been the first novice since 2013 winner, Alderwood to claim victory in the Grand Annual, but this is certainly a trend all punters should keep in mind.

Cheltenham Festival Trends - 11-00 Or More In Handicaps


Over the last five years, 76% of the handicaps at Cheltenham have been won by horses carrying 11-00 or more. 60% of the winners shoulders 11-04 or above and, in that time, only three winners have carried less than 10-10.

This trend plays out most effectively in the two handicaps for amateur riders, the Kim Muir and the Martin Pipe, where 85% of the winners in the last ten years have carried 11-4 or more. So, when it comes to the handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival, class nearly always comes to the fore.

ultima handicap Chase
The Conditional was a novice chaser who had won at Cheltenham that same season when he won the Ultima in 2020. (Getty)

Cheltenham Festival Trends - Course Form In The Ultima


Form around Cheltenham is vital when trying to find the winner of the Ultima Handicap Chase. Since 2002, only one horse, Dun Doire in 2006, has managed to win the Ultima on their Cheltenham debut. Every other winner has had at least one previous start around the track.

What's more, eight of the last ten Ultima winners have run at Cheltenham earlier in that season. British trainers have also won all of the last 13 editions of the Ultima, so backing a British-based horse with plenty of Cheltenham experience could be a profitable plan.

Cheltenham Festival Trends - Flat Form Or French In The Fred Winter


The Fred Winter, now known as the Boodles Juvenile Handicap, is a notoriously tricky race for punters. The last two winners have gone off at single-figure prices, but the average winning SP of this handicap hurdle remains around 20/1!

There is, however, one important trend that can point you in the right direction. All 16 winners of the Boodles either ran on the flat or ran in France prior to going over hurdles. 

Cheltenham Festival Trends - Qualifier Winners Don't Win The Final


Dandy Mag, Jacamar and Honest Vic currently sit prominently in the betting for the Pertemps Final, having won one of the many recognised qualifying races that take place over Britain and Ireland - a full list of which can be found on our Pertemps Final page.

However, history is firmly against them, and any horse who actually wins a qualifying race. Only two winners of the Pertemps Final in the last 25 years has won a Pertemps Qualifier. You want to look for classy horses in the upper half of the weights who secured their places in the Final with a top-six finish.
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