25 years of Cheltenham Festival – Does it pay to back a favourite?

The Cheltenham Festival is finally here!

Whilst you have been busy scanning through the formbook we’ve been picking the bones out of the last 25 years of racing at Cheltenham to give you an insight as to how the favourites have fared in all the Grade 1 contests over the last 25-years.

Our interactive history of Cheltenham’s 14 Championship races will show the potential returns if you had backed the favourite to a level stake of £10 over the period.

If you have been betting solely on the favourites over the last 25 years you would have found yourself out of pocket to the tune of £124.11.

However, if you had backed the favourite for the last five years you would have seen a profit of £192.35.

Day One

According to our data, Champion Hurdle Day has been a bit of a graveyard for favourite-backers. The market leaders in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Arkle Novice Chase have a modest record over the period with combined losses of £170.73

The exception to this is the David Nicholson Mare’s Hurdle – celebrating its 11th renewal this year – where the favourite has come out on top in seven of the ten previous races – netting a profit of £40.26.

Race of the Day: Champion Hurdle

Day one’s highlight is the iconic Champion Hurdle, the favourite has come out on top just nine times in the last 25 years. Four of the favourites have come out on top in the past seven years, this period alone would have netted a profit of £46.75 alone, compared to the net loss of £37.72 in the 18 years prior.

25-year Grand Total – £121.44 down


Day Two

These trends continue onto Ladies Day where backing favourites would’ve cost you a few quid.

The RSA Novices’ Chase showed a small loss of £5.50, whilst the Neptune Novices’ Hurdle brings a negative balance of £28 over the 25-years. The grim figures continue with fav backers down £75 in the Champion Bumper and the day’s habit of seeing the favourite fall short continues into the day’s feature event.

Race of the Day: Queen Mother Champion Chase

The Queen Mother Champion Chase is the ultimate test of speed and fencing ability although the favourite has only been ridden to victory on eight occasions with only three favourites have landed the prize in the 12 years. Losses all together reach £159.86.

25-year Grand Total – £159.86 down


Day Three

St Patricks Day Thursday at the Festival has seen punters luck change for the better over time.

The market leader has won the JLT Novice Chase for the last three years, although one (Black Hercules in 2016) was a 4/1 joint favourite. Before this the race had a negative balance of £40, but with a favourite landing each year since 2015, you would now be up £30.

Four favourites have won the Ryanair Chase in the last six years, the race giving favourite backers a profit of £45.83 since its inception in 2005.

Race of the Day: Stayers Hurdle

The Stayers Hurdle has seen the favourite win on nine occasions, with five coming in the last 10 years. Big Buck’s was an odds-on favourite for three of his four wins over 2010 to 2012 and helped to recoup the losses of the previous 15 years leaving a net profit of £0.76.

25-year Grand Total – £76.59 up


Day Four

Gold Cup day is always special and over the years it has proven that backing the favourite leads to profit.

Whilst the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle would have posted a loss of £33.75 for those backing the market leader, this is the only Grade 1 race on the card that follows that trend.

The Triumph Hurdle is another race where it has paid to back the favourites. This is due to a couple of big priced winning favs since 2015, backing the market leader in that period would have left you with £90.00 profit, and a rolling profit of £62.50 for the 25-year period.

Race of the Day: Gold Cup

In the past 25 years, the Gold Cup has been triumphed by the favourite just nine times – accumulating a rolling profit of £51.86 over its history. Eight of those wins have come in the last 15 years, quickly overcoming a £56.67 deficit from 2002 with both Best Mate (2003 and 2004) and Kauto Star (2007 and 2009) winning the race twice as market leader. The recent history suggests that the Blue Riband favours the form books.

25-year Grand Total – £80.61 up

*Odds were correct at time of publishing the article
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