Cheltenham Betting Odds: How Does It Work?

The world of horse racing is full of top-class events that light up the calendar each year. The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most well-known and prestigious meets in UK racing. Featuring 28 races (14 of which are Grade 1) spread across four days, this jumps racing event always delivers scintillating action to catch in person, online or for free via ITV Racing.

One thing that Cheltenham is also known for is the huge amount of betting action it sees and the opportunity this gives the estimated 250,000 racegoers at Cheltenham Racecourse to back their favourite horse. Betting on races like the Gold Cup is also very popular with punters watching from home and is a great way to get even closer to the excitement.

For anyone who is planning to have a bet at the festival, though, it is crucial to know how Cheltenham betting odds work. This enables you to bet from a position of knowledge and gamble in a responsible way.

How Do Cheltenham Betting Odds Work?

Although placing a bet at a major festival like Cheltenham feels special, it actually works in much the same way as betting on any other horse race in the UK or Ireland.

The first thing to take into account for Cheltenham betting odds is how they are usually displayed. For the UK and Irish racing market, this is either in fractional or decimal format. To get a better idea of how this works, examples of fractional and decimal odds are shown below:

  • Fractional odds: 2/1
  • Decimal odds: 3.00

The important thing to note here is that the above odds mean exactly the same thing but are just two different ways of showing them. If you put a £10 bet on a horse at 2/1 or 3.00, your return would still be £30. The type of odds you choose to use for Cheltenham betting all comes down to personal preference

Percentages and Probabilities for Cheltenham Betting Odds

One thing that is important to know about Cheltenham betting odds is how they show the chance that bookies give for each horse in a race to win. This is because the odds given for a horse equate to the percentage chance they have of winning, in the bookie’s eyes.

A 100/1 shot in the Champion Hurdle, for example, means the bookmakers feel the horse in question has a 1% chance of coming home first, whereas an even money bet would see the bookies thinking the horse has a 50% chance of winning. This is why Galopin Des Champs (having arrived as favourite with many bookies for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2023) was priced up at shorter odds than a horse in the same race that they felt had less chance of winning.

How Do Fractional Odds Work for Cheltenham Betting?

As many punters in the UK and Ireland stick with fractional odds for Cheltenham Festival wagering, it is best to dig into them a little deeper. In simple terms, they show how much you get back when you stake a certain amount. This is done by multiplying your stake by the first number and then adding the stake back on to get the full return.

At Cheltenham, the bookies price up each of the 28 races in a way that shows their take on how likely a horse is to win. A good example of this is Barry Connell-trained Marine Nationale, shown at around 2/1 with most bookies to win the Arkle in 2024. If you placed a £10 wager at these odds, you could expect a £30 return (£20 in winnings and your £10 stake back).

How Do Bookmakers Calculate Odds at the Cheltenham Festival?

To price up each horse in a race and set the market for punters to bet on, bookies first have to calculate the odds for each horse in races like the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase. To do this, they use a set formula that helps them calculate the probability of something happening, and then add their own profit margin back in.

When the probability of each horse winning in percentage terms is added together, these form the market for people to bet on at Cheltenham races. The betting market should add up to 100% in an ideal world, but it is usually a little over this figure, as the extra is the money the bookies make on each race. This is similar to how booking fees work for live music venues and sees promoters able to make a profit on each sale by charging a bit extra on top.

Which Bookies Have the Best Cheltenham Odds?

Oddschecker Screenshot - Best Cheltenham Odds

When it comes to understanding how Cheltenham odds work, knowing that different bookies have different odds for the same races is key. It is therefore vital to find the bookmakers who have the best odds, as this will bring a better potential return.

Taking on odds of 5/1, for example, on a horse in the Ryanair Steeple Chase on St Patrick’s Day at the festival would bring a £60 payout, whereas the same bet at 4/1 with a different bookmaker would only generate a £50 return.

But which bookmakers have the best Cheltenham odds? A good place to start is using an online odds comparison site like Oddschecker to get a feel for which the best might be. This means you can instantly see which bookie is offering the best Cheltenham odds on the horse you fancy backing.

In terms of specific bookies that usually stand out for having juicy odds at Cheltenham, Paddy Power is worth considering. It has a Best Odds Guarantee on top races like the Championship Hurdle, which is available from 8am on each day of the festival. bet365 is another well-known betting brand that offers decent Cheltenham odds and has its own Best Odds Guarantee for punters to enjoy. Bookies like this will also regularly boost the prices of certain horses in specific races and this is something to keep an eye out for.

Betting Odds at the Cheltenham Festival

When it comes to understanding betting odds for this iconic meet, you should always remember that any odds shown reflect the chance the bookies think a horse has of winning, and also the potential return any bet will make. This is useful to know not only in terms of betting more responsibly but also for deciding which horses to back at the festival.