Only once since 2010 has the Cheltenham Festival top trainer title been won by a British handler. Proof, as if needed, that the best horses are in Ireland was there for all to see last year. Willie Mullins heads Cheltenham top trainer odds once again with the bookies with what looks a top Festival team.
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Usual suspects at head of Cheltenham top trainer odds
When he trains the ante post favourites of around a dozen races during the meeting, according to horse racing betting sites, it’s no wonder. Mullins has already been top handler at the Festival eight times since 2011, so expect the Closutton battalions hitting Prestbury Park again.
National Hunt horse racing has more than one master handler in the Emerald Isle, though. Much like Cheltenham top jockey odds, if there’s a tie for the number of winners, placed horses count. That’s not the way anyone wants Festival honours deciding but seconds and thirds could matter.
Expect plenty of twists and turns in the Cheltenham betting here. A trainer could easily have a bad start to the Festival, only to come back into contention later in the meeting. The Cheltenham top trainer odds could go down to the final race, where they must rely on conditional jockeys riding. See what SportsLens experts make of this market:
Mullins a worthy favourite in Cheltenham top trainer odds
Nobody has trained more Festival winners than Mullins, who has saddled 78 to success. He was top dog last season with six and had 12 other horses come second or third. Mullins did even better in 2020 with seven winners and 13 more in first three. Some of those already successful based on past Cheltenham results return for more glory at the meeting.
Into this bracket go Ballymore Novices Hurdle fancy Sir Gerhard, leading novice chaser Galopin Des Champs, Stayers Hurdle hotpot Klassical Dream and last year’s Ryanair Chase scorer Allaho among others. Three of the first five in the market on the Dawn Run Mares Novices Hurdle, meanwhile, hail from Closutton.
Mullins also boasts a strong hand in the open handicaps at Cheltenham. Any punters visiting online bookmakers see horses from his yard prominent in the betting for the Boodles (Fred Winter), County Hurdle and Matin Pipe. Add in prolific hunter Billaway and two of the first three in the Mares Chase market, including previous Festival winner Concertista, and it’s hard to see anyone else being the best handler.
Phenomenal strength in depth on paper
Even in races where Mullins doesn’t train the current favourite, then the next best in the betting is his. See Dysart Dynamo in the Supreme Novices Hurdle, Appreciate It in the Champion Hurdle odds, Stattler in the National Hunt Chase, Stormy Ireland in the Mares Hurdle and Energumene in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. Mullins also has Champion Bumper favourite Facile Vega and list of contenders goes on.
If Festival veterans weren’t used to it, then the strength-in-depth concentrated in County Carlow would be frightening. Mullins can afford to have favourites or fancies flop and still saddle the most winners. This is why Betfred are best-price 4/9 Cheltenham top trainer odds about him.
Elliott has plenty of motivation after missing last Festival
There is a small asterisk next to Mullins’ win in this category last season. Gordon Elliott served a ban with his training license suspended for six months. It is a bitter pill for his detractors to swallow but that may only serve as motivation for the Cullentra House handler. Elliott has lost some high-profile horses, notably Sir Gerhard, for good yet many others returned to his charge once his suspension ended.
Six horses that started last season at Cullentra House defied Cheltenham odds and disruption to their routines to win. Three physically stayed in the yard while Denise Foster acted as a sort of caretaker trainer. Elliott would only have lost top Festival trainer honours on countback down to the number of thirds. That technicality shouldn’t be lost on punters either.
Look out for Cullentra House in handicaps
Elliott has National Hunt Chase favourite Run Wild Fred, multiple Festival winner Tiger Roll, Champion Bumper contender American Mike, Pertemps Final fancy Dunboyne, Triumph Hurdle contender Pied Piper and Ballymore hopeful Ginto among his leading horses this year. If that were any other meeting, then he’d be a shoe-in for top trainer.
Such is the might of Mullins that Elliott probably needs more. He needs Galvin to land the Cheltenham Gold Cup odds and Mount Ida in the Mares Chase too. Some reverses for Mullins mounts would also help, especially in races where Elliott has nothing to put against them. It’s a case of relying on other handlers doing him a favour. Elliott is still William Hill’s 7/2 second-favourite in the Cheltenham top trainer odds this year.
De Bromhead needs big guns all firing
Henry De Bromhead had his best-ever Cheltenham when becoming the first handler to win the three biggest Festival championship races in the same season last term. Honeysuckle is all the rage in the Champion Hurdle odds to retain her crown. De Bronhead also has two of the first three in the Cheltenham Gold Cup betting in last year’s winner Minella Indo and A Plus Tard.
If the top Festival trainer was awarded based on prize money, then he would be a stronger fancy. However, one win is no different from any other in this quantity over quality market. De Bromhead can say he has both, though not so much as Mullins. Telmesomethinggirl is favourite for the Mares Hurdle and Journey With Me prominent in the Ballymore betting.
Last year’s Festival a tough act to follow
Put The Kettle On is four from five at Cheltenham and the forgotten horse in the Queen Mother Champion Chase odds and market. Bob Olinger, who won the Ballymore at last year’s Festival, is a leading contender for the Turners Novices Chase, meanwhile.
De Bromhead has several chances but can’t afford the luxury of slip-ups, though. He needs everything to go right to win six or seven Cheltenham Festival races. Rachael Blackmore was leading rider at this meeting last season, though, so that gives them hope. There may be more juice in De Bromhead at 8/1 with LiveScore Bet than Elliott at less than half that price. Mullins mounts still need to underperform, however.
Cheltenham top trainer odds suggest stiff task for Henderson
Seven Barrows maestro Nicky Henderson has been leading Festival handler three times this century. He is Britain’s best and only realistic hope of wrestling this crown away from Ireland this year. Henderson has two leading Supreme contenders in Constitution Hill and Jonbon. He also has a good recent record in the Coral Cup.
The one superstar everyone at Seven Barrows wants to see win again at Cheltenham is odds-on Champion Chase favourite Shishkin. It’s tougher to see where enough winners to seriously challenge the Irish triumvirate of De Bromhead, Elliott and Mullins will come from, though.
McManus pair must put best feet forward for Seven Barrows
Champ has been a bit Jekyll and Hyde at previous Festivals. He never went a yard in the Gold Cup last year but was a gallant winner of the old RSA Chase the season before. Champ is prominent in the Stayers Hurdle odds, but the race looks very open. Chantry House could bounce back too with the blue riband on his agenda, even if he did finish a tired winner of the Cotswold Chase.
Henderson doesn’t have enough ammunition, so Cheltenham top trainer odds of 16/1 with William Hill for the Festival. He needs all three Irish counterparts to have a poor meeting, and the probability of that is much less than that price suggests.
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