First of all, let's get rid of the elephant in the room... WE LOST 15.85 POINTS ON THE WEEK. I'll repeat that to be 100% clear, WE LOST 15.85 POINTS ON THE WEEK.

This post is not a review of how the individual selections ran, it's not a tale of woe about how unlucky we were and what might have been, it's a statement of fact that tries to put the week in some kind of context.

4 out of the last 5 years at the Cheltenham Festival were profitable for us, so now it's 4 out of 6 years... a 66% strike rate is still pretty impressive. Over the 6 years we've made a total profit of just about 150 points, an average of 25 points profit per year

We continually try to improve and an important part of that is looking at past performances to see if there are lessons to be learned. It is always better to let the dust clear and the emotions to settle before looking back with a clear view.

A few of the key contextual points that we've identified are...

9 of our 25  selections hit the frame and paid out place money, that's a win and place strike rate of 36% which is a good number that we would normally expect to make a profit on, we just didn't get enough winners. We anticipated 3 or 4 winners, but this year only got one.

To add insult to injury our only winner Ravenhill was advised the night before at 11/2 but won at an SP of 12/1. We have recorded it in our P&L at the advised price as BOG is not available on bets placed the night before by most of the major bookmakers.

5 of our 25 (20%) selections came from the Philip Hobbs and Colin Tizzard stables who between them didn't have a winner all week.

10 of our 25 (40%) selections came from the powerhouses of Willie Mullins, Gordon Elliott and Nicky Henderson who had 18 winners and 26 places between them, saying that they saddled well over 120 runners between them and we fell between the cracks.

We got the handicap hurdles completely wrong... Irelands dominance of the 5 handicap hurdles was pretty spectacular with 16 of the first 20 places filled by Irish runners,  5 of our 7 selections in those races were English trained.

Antepost selection strategy

We're debating whether to only back antepost win only to half stakes. This strategy locks in the main value if the price falls and allows to us to cover on the day of the race with extra places if we want to. Both Asterion Forlonge and Battleoverdoyen would have paid out if we'd backed them in the early price markets instead of antepost.

Bets advised the night before or in the morning?

Most of the bigger bookmakers have removed the availability of best odds guarantees for bets placed the night before racing which is why we've reported Ravenhill profit at 11/2 rather than his SP of 12/1. We are now leaning towards posting member selections on the morning of racing for the big festivals in 2021 (or Royal Ascot etc. should they happen in 2020)


Apart from the handicap hurdles, there is nothing that I can really identify as being majorly wrong with our overall selection strategy. It was just one of those meetings, we were close and hit the bar a couple of times, we had a bit of bad luck but that's racing. However, there was some useful data and we'll be tweaking a few things going forward and will be expecting to have a better result at the 2021 festival

If you have any comments on aspects of the selection strategy please get in touch through the comments at the bottom of this page.

Finally, here's the list of all the bets we had during Cheltenham 2020...

Stay safe and well
The team at Cleeve

RaceSelectionAdv PriceResultP&LRunning P&L
Day 1 results
1.30 SupremeAsterion Forlonge1 pt EW @ 6/14th-2-2
2.10 The ArkleNotebook2 pts Win @ 3/16th-2-4
2.50 The UltimaKildisart1 pt EW @ 9/12nd0.8-3.2
3.30 Champion HurdleSharjah1 pt EW @ 14/12nd1.8-1.4
4.50 Close Brothers ChasePrecious Cargo1 pt EW @ 16/1Fell-2-3.4
5.30 National Hunt CupRavenhill1 pt EW @11/2Won6.63.2
Day 2 results
The BallymoreThe Big Breakaway1 pt EW @ 10/14th-21.2
The RSABattleoverdoyen1 pt EW @ 14/14th-2-0.8
The Coral CupFranco De Port0.5pt EW @ 10/1PU-1-1.8
The Coral CupCoko Beach0.5pt EW @ 28/18th-1-2.8
Champion ChaseDefi Du Seuil2pts Win @ 9/44th-2-4.8
Juvenile HurdleThyme White0.5pts EW @ 14/118th-1-5.8
Juvenile HurdleFraser Island0.5pts EW @ 28/1PU-1-6.8
Day 3 results
March Novice ChaseMr Fisher1 pt EW @ 11/24th0.25-6.55
PertempsThird Wind0.5pt EW @ 10/14th0.7-5.85
PertempsJatiluwih0.5pt EW @ 16/18th-1-6.85
RyanairRiders Onthe Storm1pt EW @ 7/1Fell-2-8.85
Stayers HurdleCity Island1pt EW @ 12/1PU-2-10.85
Brown AdvisoryClondaw CastleNRNR0-10.85
Kim MuirLe Breuil1.5pts EW @ 13/211th-3-13.85
Day 4 results
Triumph HurdleAllmankind2 pts EW @ 5/13rd0-13.85
County Handicap HurdleZanza1 pt EW @ 40/121st-2-15.85
Albert BartlettThyme Hill1 pt EW @ 11/24th0.1-15.75
Gold CupClan Des Obeaux1 pt EW @ 9/18th-2-17.75
Grand AnnualÉclair De Beaufeu1 pt EW @ 15/24th0.5-17.25
Martin PipeThe Bosses Oscar1 pt EW @ 12/14th1.4-15.85


  1. Neil Beer on April 16, 2020 at 6:02 pm

    Pretty crap this year

    • Nick McKenna on April 16, 2020 at 7:32 pm

      Yes Neil, we know that and admit it’s not been very good by our normal profitable standards.

      But if racing does come back reasonably soon, our target is still to make a profit on the year.

  2. Roddo on April 16, 2020 at 6:13 pm

    I think it is fair to say that you have shown your honesty by putting your Cheltenham results up for all to see. It makes grim reading of one winner from 23 races and a loss of over 15 points. For people who joined just for Cheltenham and backed to twenty pound stakes (average ) it meant a loss of nearing £350 after taking into account subscription costs.
    I missed that bullet (only just) and the main reason i didn’t subscribe was the ordinary form of Cleeve over the 2019/20 NH season. The service was never on the front foot. I believe the break has come at a good time for the service. It will give time for form readers/stats people etc to take a fresh look at the form and what they are doing.
    I have had bad experiences with Cleeve in the past ( lost after a three month subscription ) but do know knowledgeable people who rate the service very highly. I am sure Cleeve will bounce back and most of your loyal subscribers will stay with you. i hope so, and good luck for whenever the racing starts back up.

    • Nick McKenna on April 16, 2020 at 7:29 pm

      Hi Roddo, thanks for your considered thoughts. Yes, the second half of 2019 and 2020 have been challenging times for us. We have looked into it again and again but have no real answer as to why as we have not changed the things we have always done and we have a history of making consistent profits.

      Speaking to quite a few other services we know it has been quite a rough time for many of them as well, again with no standout reason as to why. When racing does come back it will be a volatile time and it is going to pay to be cautious for a few weeks. Let’s hope things get better for ll of us!

  3. John on April 16, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    Win only to 2pts instead of 1or each way would have given a slightly higher return even with just the one winner .At sp it would have given 24 pts so a profit for the meeting just about ?

    • Nick McKenna on April 16, 2020 at 7:22 pm

      Hi John, thanks for your feedback, yes that would have broken you even if you had got SP… I’ll pass this on to the tipping team.

      • John on April 16, 2020 at 10:22 pm

        I am not a advocate of each way betting .yes there’s more small wins but mostly you look back at any successful selection process it will almost always pay more win only .

        • Nick McKenna on April 17, 2020 at 12:53 pm

          Hi John, thanks for your thoughts… this point is on our discussion list (which is quite long!)

  4. Roly on April 16, 2020 at 7:27 pm

    Only comment is really 1 winner from the whole festival isn’t even poor it’s appalling.

    • Nick McKenna on April 17, 2020 at 12:34 pm

      It’s not good whatever terminology we choose to apply!

  5. Graham fenwick on April 16, 2020 at 7:29 pm

    Although as you say it was strictly speaking a losing festival for Cleeve selections I’m sure many members including myself made a profit on the week backing Cleeve selections. By getting 12-1 for Ravenhill and taking advantage of the many bookmakers offers for the festival i.e. money back as cash and extra ew places it was possible to make a profit on the week.

    • Nick McKenna on April 17, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      Yes it was possible Graham, we’ve had quite a few emails in along the same lines… however it doesn’t make up for the fact that we were aiming at a making members 20+ point profit going into the Festival.

  6. Anthony Mackle on April 16, 2020 at 7:50 pm

    Hi chaps,

    I hope you’re all keeping well.

    If most of the bookies are removing BOG for bets made the evening before then it makes sense to back your selections first thing in the morning. Why not post selections the night before but then post the price available at say 9am the following morning – probably a bit more work for you to do, and you may even change your selection, but BOG is a massive advantage to us punters.

    As for ante post bets, I’m firmly of the opinion that you leave it well alone unless you have inside knowledge or are willing to take a punt before a horse has properly proved itself. So, as a bad example, if you fancy a horse to win the Gold Cup you back it before it wins the King George. Given the extra places and other incentives available on any festival day, I just don’t see the value in your ante post selections as they are being selected at the moment, sorry.

    Anyway, last point, what’s going to happen with member’s subscriptions?

    I fully understand that current events are beyond all our control but nevertheless, the question has to be asked and answered.

    • Nick McKenna on April 17, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      Hi Anthony, thanks for your thoughts and yes we concur with most of them. With regards to members subscriptions… they are all on hold and the lieu days will be added on for everyone when racing restarts. We are also hoping to add an extra free period to allow things to settle down and ‘normalise’. However, we can’t be more specific at the moment as it depends on when exactly it does restart and the state of the business at that time.

  7. John Moore on April 16, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    I been with you a while and can’t really complain. I’m about even, so I will continue to subscribe. Though it’s not going to be easy when racing does resume. I know you only do class 3 and above. But you may have to change you plans. I foresee a lot of decent horses running on the all weather. This could be very tricky. Anyway let’s hope we get back soon.

    • Nick McKenna on April 17, 2020 at 12:45 pm

      Hi John, it’s actually class 2 and above but we are very aware that things might need to change after the restart. I also agree that we could see a major uplift in the quality of all-weather racing, especially 2-y-o races

  8. John on April 16, 2020 at 8:33 pm

    I’ve now had 3 trials with Cleeve and I have to say I’ve lost each time. I know it’s necessary to look at the long term but in all honesty that’s enough for me.
    I won’t be using the service again.
    I don’t doubt the hard work you put in and you’re completely honest in your reporting but a service needs to be profitable and Cleeve hasn’t been for me.

    • Nick McKenna on April 17, 2020 at 12:52 pm

      Hi John, that’s fair enough sand thanks for your comments at the end… everyone who uses a service needs to find one that suits their personal punting style. The danger of joining on a trial and leaving after is obvious, but the fact that you’ve given us three chances mitigates the and I can fully understand your decision.

      • John on April 17, 2020 at 5:08 pm

        I have taken out a one year subscription has I normally due with reputable tipster services .I feel you have to take a long term view and give the service a proper crack of the whip .I also always take there advice on staking and betting bank size .If after 12 months I make nothing over my subscription cost then I have to serious consider if it’s worth keeping for a further year .Sometimes but not often there are mitigating circumstances .This maybe that year .

  9. Stephen C on April 16, 2020 at 8:48 pm

    HI Nick. I applaud your honesty and straight talking about the recent performance of the service. I think that of itself marks you out as a quality service. It does go to show how tricky this tipping service game is for both the tipster and the punter. Those who joined Cleeve for the Cheltenham Festival will have had a rotten experience of the service which would be wholly unjustified on a longer term framework. It only goes to show that any service can only really be evaluated and judged on a longer term basis, probably a minimum of 6 months. In terms of what has gone wrong (if indeed anything has) over the course of the 2019/20 season, two things come to mind. First, every successful and sustainable service must have an edge to sustain its success. If you understand what your edge is, perhaps you can do some analysis to see whether that edge has disappeared. Nothing lasts forever in this game! The only other thought I had was that this winter has been exceptionally wet and that has undoubtedly had an impact on formlines. That might account for why it seems to have been such a challenging season for many tipping services.

    • Nick McKenna on April 17, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for your very considered comments…

      The edge as we saw it was taking a ‘standardised’ approach to the races we analyse via our algorithm, given there are plenty of race day variables we only use this as a front-end to our form team’s hands-on work. Neither our algorithm nor form team has changed during our recent downward trend so maybe it was down to the wet winter, that would account for other services suffering at least.

      We won’t stop looking though.

      • John on April 17, 2020 at 5:15 pm

        I also run a tipping service that I will not name here .I started the year very well and I thought my overall profit after 18 months would hit 200 pts by January when I was considering the 12 month period in at the start of November .Yet it fell to 135 pts by the close of British racing .Tipping horses long term is a tough game and looking at Cleeves long term results they are doing a sterling job .

        • Nick McKenna on April 18, 2020 at 7:53 pm

          Hi John, yes it’s a tough game alright…

          Let’s hope we can both quickly turn the corner when racing resumes.

  10. Lashious on April 25, 2020 at 10:19 pm

    Hi, I don’t think dumping e/w is the way forward and I’d leave if you did. It’s those e/w that mitigate the misses on wins, and gives the extra chance of a win. Maybe those saying win only are betting at low odds. Shit happens, gambling on horses is always going to be tricky as they are delicate little flowers. You’ve done ok for me, it’s been fun, but you did start missing things in July after that belter of a day where you hit win after win (and I didn’t know about multiple bets in a slip). Maybe you need to sort the feng shui out in your office my dears.

    • Nick McKenna on April 28, 2020 at 12:01 pm

      Thanks for your comments Laura, we’ve moved the tables around so hopefully will hit the dirt running when racing resumes!

      Stay well

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