Cheltenham for Novices: Your ultimate survival guide

Known as “Racing’s Olympics”, the Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of Jump Racing. Over four days in March, nearly 250,000 tweed-decked Racing fans will travel to the Gloucestershire venue to gamble over £25 million and drink enough Guinness to float the QE2.

So how can you enjoy Cheltenham and win a few quid? Here’s six top tips on how to survive the Festival, plus some key betting terms you’ll need to impress your mates down the bookies.

1) Set yourself a budget
With 27 Festival races, it’s important to remember that Cheltenham is a marathon not a sprint. Work out what you can afford to spend and pace yourself accordingly over the week. Blowing your dough on Day One will leave you borrowing from mates and less popular than a clown at a funeral. Make sure you stick to a staking plan and only bet what you can afford to lose.

2) Don’t listen to tipsters
Avoid so-called experts like the plague. These guys promise inside info “straight from the horse’s mouth” or “direct from the stable”. It’s a load of manure. Firstly, horses can’t talk and secondly a stable wouldn’t give away information to wannabe John McCriricks. Make up your own mind when it comes to betting and stick to your guns!

3) Don’t get too drunk
Cheltenham is a time for punting first and drinking second. It’s important to keep those two priorities the right way round at all times. You don’t want to make an arse of yourself by cheering on the wrong horse or accidentally backing a 100/1 donkey. If you can keep your head whilst all around you are drinking brandy with breakfast, falling over and being sick, then you’ll have a better chance of beating the bookies.

4) Study the form
“Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” was what my old English teacher used to say. Despite being a first class twit, he was annoyingly right about this point. Make sure you do all the essential reading before you risk your hard-earned cash. You can get all the Racing Post cards at and the best big race previews right here on the Coral news site.

5) Keep an eye on the Parade Ring
Whether you’re at the track or watching on TV, keep an eye on what the horses are doing before each race. Fitness and wellbeing really count in Racing, so look closely and it will help you find your winner. Avoid horses that get fractious, sweat badly or look dull in their coat. If you don’t know what that means, just pretend you’re single at a nightclub and go for the best looker that catches your eye. Whatever you do, take no notice if someone next to you says: “That one has just had a dump. That’s a few pound less for it to carry”. They’re talking utter crap.

6) Look out for good offers
They say to never look a gift horse in the mouth. I don’t know what that phrase means, but I do know there’s always some great Bookie offers for Cheltenham. This year Coral are offering Money Back if your horse falls, and also have some great enhanced prices lined up for the week’s big heroes. Make sure you’re following @Coral on Twitter so you can get the best deals before everyone else lumps on!

Want to sound like you really know your stuff? Here’s 10 key Racing terms to impress your mates:

Burlington Bertie
A ‘tic-tac’ term used in the betting ring for odds of 100/30.

On The Bridle
When a horse wins ‘on the bridle’ it has won easily, without being pushed out by the jockey.

A National Hunt race but run over the flat for in experienced horses with no hurdles or fences.

CD / C&D
Course and Distance. A sign that a horse has won over the course and distance that the race is taking place at. Usually a big positive as shows horse acts on the track.

Keeping a horse behind other runners to prevent it running too freely in the early stages of a race. This is done to conserve their energy for the closing stages of the contest.

A horse whose odds are getting bigger due to lack of support in the betting. Generally regarded as a negative sign.

Standard distance unit in racing. A furlong is equal to 200m and there are eight furlongs in a mile.

A castrated horse. This is a measure taken to get the best out of a horse that has been holding back and not performing to the level that connections know it is capable of.

A race where horses carry different weights based on their official rating. The idea is that horses of different levels of ability are given an equal chance of winning.

A horse whose price shortens dramatically in the market due to relentless support.