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Andrew Mount’s Myth Busters: Cheltenham Festival Experience is vital to future Cheltenham Festival success

Langer Dan Cheltenham Festival

Last week, Andrew Mount’s Myth Busting column took aim at the theory that Gary Moore’s horses don’t travel well. In the most recent instalment, he starts to look ahead to the 2024 Cheltenham Festival, as some popular misconceptions about previous Festival experience are held to account.


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Cheltenham stats and trends are certain to be popular in the run up to the Festival and, over the course of the next few weeks, I’m going to look at some of the more common ones likely to be doing the rounds.

Namely, for this first piece, I’ll debate whether previous Cheltenham Festival experience is vital to future Cheltenham Festival success.

Of the 2225 runners at the last five Cheltenham Festivals, 980 had competed at a previous Festival, with 76 of them winning. The expected number of winners, based on their Starting Price, was 75.09, giving an A/E score (actual over expected of 1.01), suggesting no real statistical significance. 

Those who had won at a previous Cheltenham Festival didn’t make great bets as a group, landing 28 of their 184 starts for a loss of £45.18 to a £1 level stake at SP (-24.55% on turnover). The expected number of winners was 31.00 (A/E = 0.90).

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However, things get more interesting when we look at runners who had placed at a previous Cheltenham Festival, with 31 of the 354 qualifiers scoring in the past five years for a profit of £40.17 to a £1 level stake at SP (+£245.25 at Betfair SP). The expected number of winners was only 27.12 (A/E = 1.14).

Splitting the 354 qualifiers by handicaps/non-handicaps makes for interesting reading, with the handicappers providing 11 winners from 143 bets for a huge profit of £125.00 to a £1 level stake at SP (+87.41% on turnover). The strike-rate was much higher for the hurdlers (seven winners from 57 runners, 12.3%, +£81.00) than for the chasers (four from 86, 4.7%, +£44.00). This angle is certainly worth considering when it comes to having a crack at the Tote Placepot. Last year, the four qualifiers in the Coral Cup included the 9-1 winner Langer Dan and 20-1 third Camprond, while Mill Green, one of only three qualifiers in the Pertemps Final ran third at 22-1. The seven runners who fitted the bill in the County Hurdle included Pied Piper, second by a head at 12-1, and Sharjah, the 10-1 fourth.

In 2022 Commander Of Fleet, the 50-1 winner of the Coral Cup, was one of only two qualifiers, while the five who filled the criteria in the Pertemps Final included 25-1 winner Third Wind. The three qualifiers in the County Hurdle finished out of the frame though most firms would have paid out on the fifth place, and 50-1 poke Ballyadam filled that position.

This year, Langer Dan holds obvious claims in the Coral Cup again and the Olly Murphy-trained Itchy Feet, a general 50-1 shot at the time of writing, might not be a forlorn hope in the Pertemps Final. He was third to Klassical Dream in the 2019 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and ran well in last year’s Pertemps, finishing less than seven lengths behind the winner when 11th of 23 (40-1).


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