Backing A Winner REVEALED: What Makes A Cheltenham Festival Champion?
What makes a Cheltenham champion? We compiled stats from all the Cheltenham Festival winners since 2000 and now we can reveal all!
Every year, 71,000 spectators cram into the grandstands. to watch elite-level horse racing across four days of action.
And for horse racing fans, jockeys and trainers alike there’s nothing like the Cheltenham roar to welcome in the first race of the festival and set the tone for some of the most famous races in the horse racing calendar.
But what makes an elite level jockey and a Cheltenham winner?
With only around 450 registered professional jockeys in the sport, it’s a small pool of talent and an exclusive club.
So, what does it take to succeed here? And are there specific characteristics that make a Cheltenham Festival champion?
At BoyleSports, as well as bringing you up-to-date odds for every race at Cheltenham, we’ve also set about understanding if there’s another way to pick a winning jockey at the festival this year.
To profile what really makes a Cheltenham champion, we looked into the data. A lot of data. Researching 20 years of race statistics from 2000-2020, we trawled through every single race at the festival across this period to uncover key performance metrics.
We totted up the number of wins and total prize money of each win, along with the average starting price.
Then we were able to calculate the £1 stake profit for each winning jockey (for the 144 that have placed first in at least one race in the 20-year period), horse (444), owner (285) and trainer (114).
We also looked at the personal characteristics of the top 50 performing jockeys and took an average of each available metric to find our winning formula.
The Winning Jockey Formula
So what did we find?
When looking to bet on a winning jockey at Cheltenham, form is such a crucial factor. Both the jockey’s form in recent races leading up to the festival and their track-record at Cheltenham.
And according to our profile, the average number of previous Cheltenham wins is four, so beware of outsiders with less than four wins under their belt.
Experience at the festival is also a must, with an average of 43 races competed in for the average Cheltenham champion.
We found that the average Cheltenham-winning jockey has a strike rate of 16% and a place rate of 28%, plus average starting odds of 30/1, and would’ve earned you a profit of £44.29 from a £1 bet.
And if you want to dig a little deeper into potential winning jockeys and their formula for success, we’ve even gone as far as to look at their eye colour, heritage, and family unit.
In fact, we’ve found that the average winning jockey from Cheltenham hails from Cork and has brown hair and blue eyes.
With just 15% of licensed professional jockeys being female, it’s no surprise that the average Cheltenham winner is male.
Jockeys who’ve settled down into marriage tend to fare better on the podium at Cheltenham, while it’s all about those contenders with two kids and two siblings.
And if you think a Cheltenham Festival win could be written in the stars, the most successful jockeys of the past twenty years have been either Aries or Cancer.
Whatever stats and data best inform your betting, we think that gives you plenty to go off when picking your possible Cheltenham winners for 2022.
20 Years of Cheltenham Festival Winners
Top of the pile for race wins in the last 20 years has been Irish jockey Ruby Walsh. Now retired, Walsh has 58 wins from his 307 Cheltenham races since 2000.
Second up is another Irishman, Barry Geraghty with a total of 43 Cheltenham first place finishes from his 266 races, followed by compatriot Davy Russell with 25 wins from his 184 races at the festival.
The most successful Englishman at Cheltenham over the last 20 years of racing has been Richard Johnson with 22 wins from 257 races – no surprise with him being the second most prolific winner in the history of National Hunt Racing.
He’s followed by his famous rival AP (Tony) McCoy (the top jockey ever in the history of National Hunt), with 20 Cheltenham wins under his belt from 236 races.
The Top 10 Most Successful Jockeys
Whilst Ruby Walsh has the highest number of wins at Cheltenham, he’s also been involved in the most races of our top 10.
So, how does he fare when it comes to win rate?
With a strike rate of 19%, there’s only one other jockey in the top 10 that’s done better. With 10 wins from 44 races at the festival, Jamie Codd has a win percentage of 23%.
Aside from Walsh, the two other jockeys making up our top three, both have a win rate above 10% – with Barry Geraghty on 16% and Davy Russell on 14%.
Our top three also have the highest place rate with Walsh on 38%, Geraghty on 34% and Russell on 33%.
Outside the top three Codd again scores high on place rate with 32%, joined by Paul Townend with the same rate.
But how have our top 10 jockeys performed when it comes to the big one at Cheltenham, the Gold Cup?
Of the top 10, there are three jockeys without a Gold Cup win – Robert Thornton, Paul Carberry, and Jamie Codd.
Ruby Walsh, Barry Geraghty, Richard Johnson and Paul Townend all have two, whilst Davy Russell, AP McCoy and Nico de Boinville have one Gold Cup win each in the last 20 years.
Top of the pile in the Champion Bumper are Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty with four wins apiece.
Geraghty also has the most wins in the Queen Mother Champion Chase with five, followed by Walsh and Nico de Boinville on three.
In the Stayers’ Hurdle it’s all about Walsh again with five wins in the last 20 years, including four on the bounce from 2009 to 2012.
The Most Successful Owners and Trainers
Top of the pile in the trainer stakes in the last 20 years at Cheltenham has been Willie Mullins, with 71 wins, 50 second-place finishes, and 51 third place finishes from 619 races, and with a win rate of 11%.
He’s followed by Nicky Henderson with 50 wins from 570 races (9% strike rate) and Paul Nichols with 43 winners from 518 races (9% strike rate).
JP McManus comes out top for owners, with a total winners’ pot of £4,921,095 from his 56 Cheltenham victories,
…followed by Gigginstown House Stud (£2,520,105 from 30 wins) and Mrs Susannah Ricci (£2,119,242 from 18 wins).
Leon Blanche, Head of Communications at BoyleSports, comments: “March in the horse racing calendar means one thing – the Cheltenham Festival. Every year, over a quarter of a million spectators cram into the grandstands across four days of action at Cheltenham Racecourse to watch elite-level horse racing.
“And there’s nothing like the Cheltenham roar to welcome in the first race of the festival and set the tone for some of the most famous races in the horse racing calendar.
“But what makes an elite level jockey and a Cheltenham winner? With only around 450 registered professional jockeys in the sport, it’s a small pool of talent and an exclusive club.
“So, we wanted to find out what it takes to succeed here. Odds aside, we set about understanding if there’s another way to pick a winning jockey at the festival this year.
“And by looking at the data, we’ve been able to build what we think is a winning formula. While we can never guarantee a winner, we believe punters dipping into the formula could have the edge.”
Betting on the Cheltenham Festival 2022
The Cheltenham Festival 2022 begins on Tuesday 15th March with seven races each day until Friday 18th March.
And with 15 Grade 1 races and 28 races in total – from the Gold Cup and the Queen Mother Champion Chase to the Champion Bumper and the Stayers’ Hurdle – there’s plenty of opportunity to bet on the Cheltenham Festival with BoyleSports.
But will the winners match our Winning Jockey Formula? It’s time to place your Cheltenham bets and find out.
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