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A Bookies Guide To The Cheltenham Festival

It’s the greatest show on Turf, the Olympics of racing and akin to holy a pilgrimage for punters and bookmakers alike. Dreams have been both shattered and realised on the course and fortunes both won and lost in the betting ring. 

For us bookmaking gentlemen of the turf, it’s absolutely everything. The amount wagered over these four March days will eclipse everything else. A bad Cheltenham means a bad year, a good one reminds us why we chose not to get a proper job, instead we chose to be at the fortunes of fate and there’s no where else that those fortunes can mean so much. 

This year like most it’ll be the success of Irish that will determine the success of us bookies. The might of the Mullins stable is something that’s been all conquering in recent times. He’s even money to train more winners alone than all the UK stables combined – a bet that you wouldn’t put anyone off backing.

If you’re going to the course yourself, strap in and get ready for a ride like no other. Staying the trip for all four days takes a fair bit of stamina but however you plan to attack it, here’s some do’s and don’t from us at DragonBet. 


  • Go to the Guiness Village – Especially at the start of the day, nothing compliments the sense of anticipation as much as a pint of the black stuff. The Irish band will get the juices flowing and at this point of the day no one has lost any money so everyone is a winner!  
  • Check out the horses in the paddock – Sometimes, be it a twist of fate or a particularly attractive member of the stable staff, paddock watching can draw you into backing a certain horse. As a bookie they mostly look the same to me, usually brown, four legs and a tail but I’m told to look out for horses with a shiny coat or deep muscle definition. I definitely do recommend checking the number of legs. 
  • Work out where the nearest toilets are – You don’t want to get caught short or miss out backing that 100/1 chance you’ve had your eye on since it eye-catchingly stayed on to be last of 15 in a low grade Ffos Las race last November (yes it’s got to learn that it’s better to jump over the fences than to try to walk through them but as they say, every dog has his day)
  • Have a bet with the on-course bookies – Obviously bet on-line with Dragonbet as well where we’ll be boosting lots of horses to massive prices but don’t forget the oncourse guys. It may sound old-fashioned but there’s nothing like feeling the wad in your pocket after you’ve collected your readies. Being a racecourse bookie myself I particularly like being asked how I’m getting on after the fifth well backed Willie Mullins fav has just won and I’ve just scrambled back to my pitch after borrowing a few quid from one of my fellow turf accountants. We also like to be asked “which one is Frankie riding?” 


  • Get there late – It’s a fair old trek from the town centre to the course and there’s fun to be had. It gets busy near the first race and the best time to enjoy the facilities is before the masses arrive. 
  • Stay in the bar watching the races on the screens – goodness knows how much you’ve paid for a ticket so go out and suck up the atmosphere. It’s exhilarating and life affirming, there’s a collective ecstasy you can feel in your very bones when one of the bankers of the week shoots up that hill and hits the winning line in front. 
  • Increase your stakes  – Have a pre-planned idea of how much you’re going to bet and stick to it. Just because the fella in the next urinal just told you that his mothers uncle’s cousin is the stable vet of such and such and he said it’s a 100% dead cert. Trying to explain to the Mrs that you’ve done in the train fare home and that she’s got to pick you up from some village in the Cotswolds is never easy – even if the fella did have an Irish accent. 
  • Go into one of ‘those pubs’ – Cheltenham is a lovely town but during festival week there’s an influx of ladies who are happy to remove a few clothes while removing you of a few quid. Remember how good it felt to have that wad of readies in your pocket even if you did have to wipe away the bookies tears when you collected it. Don’t let all that form study and the few years taken off your life when your selection nodded on landing over the last be wasted. Especially because you’ve already rung the wife informing her of what a ’judge’ you are and how you’re booking Barbados next week. 

Whatever you do or don’t do, this fine week in March enjoy it. There’s something magical about Cheltenham, you’ll lose some and hopefully win some. I just hope that you make some memories along the way. If you’re having a bet do it sensibly and don’t forget to check our odds online, where we’ll be ready to take you on with some of best odds and specials you’ll find. Pob lwc!! 

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