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07th Mar 2014

Seven things you’ll hear down the pub in the run up to Cheltenham

Keep your ears open, or maybe closed, for some of this over the coming days...


Keep your ears open, or maybe closed, for some of this over the coming days…

With racing Christmas fast approaching, it is no wonder many of us will take refuge in the pub to collect our thoughts and plan our betting strategy. But nowhere is safe from racing talk at the moment, especially the boozer, so here’s a few things you are bound to hear, or be forced to hear, before the big roar goes up on Tuesday afternoon.

Are you going?

The most frequently asked question of all in the run up. In the hazy, crazy Celtic Tiger days Irish people were packed to the rafters of Prestbury Park. Now, while there will still be a sizeable contingent heading over for the best week of their lives, the numbers are down and have been for a while. The question will usually be asked by a fella lamenting he can’t afford to go, and answered in the negative by a fella who feels exactly the same.

I hear so-and-sos horses didn’t travel well

Despite the very expensive equine flesh being considerably better treated on their journey over than most humans, this story always emanates from somewhere in the run up to the Festival. It rarely pans out to have any effect on the stable mentioned, but it might just put that seed of doubt in your mind before you hand over your cash to BetPack.

Ruby is definitely picking [insert name of horse here]

Selection dilemmas for the very top jocks are tough on them, but even harder on the poor old punter. If Ruby Walsh has a choice between two Willie Mullins runners, and doesn’t choose to ride the one you have been investing in since September, your heart sinks quicker than a Mafia snitch wearing concrete shoes.

You will be told, with complete confidence, which horse will be ridden by who days before the race itself. The fella who told you is never around when the race starts though.

By the way, our friends at BetPack are offering money back if your horse finished second, behind Ruby. Happy days!

Be careful in the opener, remember Dunguib

The temptation, often irresistible, to go in hard and heavy in the first race of the Festival, the Supreme Novices is huge. After all the anticipation, planning, waiting and hoping, you finally have a race to enjoy. And, because it has been such a happy hunting ground for Irish raiders, many of us will have put the winner of this race into multiple accumulators and other bets.


So, when a red-hot favourite, like Cousin Vinny, Cue Card or, most famously, Dunguib (above), fails to do the business, your week can be ruined before it is over. Listen, for God’s sake listen, to this sage advice, and don’t fill BetPack’s sacks on Day One.

I like him, but will he get up the hill

Not an anecdote about your old uncle Stephen, rather the age-old worry about horse’s stamina when faced with the famous Cheltenham finishing straight. This year the going is forecasted to be good, so it may not be so much of an issue but on wetter Festivals, many fine bets went to the floor when your fancy ran out of gas in the closing stages. These fears may not put you off putting a few quid on, but come the final couple of furlongs, you might be wishing you listened to that lad in the jacks who offered you this bit of knowledge.

Ireland won’t have as many winners as last year

This has been a refrain for as long as Ireland have been sending horses over to compete against the best British runners at the Festival. But those spouting it this year may finally be correct. An incredible 14 winners, out of 27 races, were Irish trained and surely that can’t be repeated or bettered. Odds are it will be less, which is nothing to be ashamed of. For once, the barstool begrudger should be right.

I have a tip for you

Easily the most dangerous phrase to hear over the next few days. If the UN did health warnings on small talk, this would be weapons grade plutonium, wrapped in an Ebola virus riddled hankie. They will tell you that they got it first hand (probably a lie), they will tell you they got it from their sister’s husband’s mechanic’s son, who was in a certain yard last week to deliver a package for a house up the road but got lost and got talking to a stable lad (also probably a lie and really not a great source), they might even tell you that it is just a hunch they overheard in the lounge (the truth) but whatever they tell you, don’t listen.

By now you will have some sort of plan for the week ahead and a rogue tip will only set you off thinking, pondering and wrecking your strategy. Before you even hear the end of the sentence ‘I have a tip for you’ make your excuses and leave. Quickly. Only the bookie wins when these ‘tips’ start circulating.

Check out for the latest ahead of next week’s Cheltenham Festival.