The defection of Min, Annie Power and Faugheen from this year’s Cheltenham Festival have underlined once more that ante-post betting, no matter how potentially lucrative, is an absolute minefield.
But the genre, long-range betting that is, is in decline and has been for a decade. The process has seemingly been accelerated since last spring when defending Champion Hurdler, the banker bet in so many ante-post bets was withdrawn from the two-mile classic on the eve of the race.
The popularity of ante post betting has probably been in decline since 2005 when Kicking King was declared a non-runner by his trainer a fortnight before the race and was removed from all betting lists. Yet he did ultimately line-up for the race and was supported into favouritism before trouncing his rivals.
History was to repeat itself in 2010 when Binocular was described as “certain to miss the race” by trainer Nicky Henderson but he too made it to the Festival and landed the Champion Hurdle in fine style.
Punters soon realised the name of the winner could well not be on the ante-post lists meaning every win bet placed on the race for a period running up to the race was guaranteed to be a loser.
Suddenly the time-honoured maxim ‘pay your money take your chance’ held no appeal. And the term ‘all-in run or not’, meaning if your horse does not run you lose, while still valid, was to disappear completely.
This lack of faith in ante-post betting and the emergence of a National Hunt superpower in the form of Willie Mullins, who often holds multiple entries with numerous fancied horses, has seen traditional ante-post betting dwindle dramatically and led firms like sports.williamhill.com/bet/en-
Hills seemingly no longer use the term ‘ante post’ preferring to put their Cheltenham Festival markets under a heading of ‘Future Races’ and the Festival races listed amongst those now come with the pièce de résistance which is ‘Non Runner Insurance’. This ‘insurance’ could probably be better described as a concession and here’s how it works
If your horse misses the Festival (as has already been the case with Min, Annie Power and Faugheen), your selection will be voided and your full stake will be returned.
If your selection runs in a Cheltenham Festival race different to the one you have backed it in, you will be given your stakes back as a free bet (up to £25) to use during the Festival.
Should you be considering backing Mullins’ Vroum Vroum Mag for a Cheltenham victory Hills ‘Non Runner Insurance’ will surely make them the only place to shop. The brilliant mare could run in the Champion Hurdle, the World Hurdle or the Mares Hurdle which she won last year. And let us not forget she can also jump a chase fence!
Whatever her target and whatever your fancies for the Festival races concessions like William Hills ‘Non Runner Insurance’ should restore some faith in long-range bets and betting on the Cheltenham Festival and it goes to prove with money-back and free bet offers now commonplace within the betting industry, there really hasn’t been a better time to be a punter.