The Cheltenham countdown clock is rapidly ticking itself down to the moment the crowd roars and the tapes go up for the opening race of the 2018 Cheltenham Festival. There is nothing else in sport quite like buzz of the Festival.

Essentially all the important Cheltenham Trial races have now been run and apart from a few racecourse gallops, the public will not get to see the superstars of National Hunt racing on a racecourse now until March 13th.

But there is plenty that can still go wrong for the main protagonists and last minute Cheltenham betting tips for the 2018 Festival must be taken seriously. Now, there are two racing yards where you would love to be a 'fly-on-the-wall' - Willie Mullins all conquering Irish stable and Jonjo O'Neill's Jackdaws Castle training establishment. Anything you could pick up from either would be akin to insider trading on the stock markets.

Mullins, who is second on the all-time Cheltenham Festival winners list with 41 winners dating back to 1995, not only has the option of running some of his best horses in multiple races, genuine news on the well-being of Faugheen and Douvan, either good or bad, could prove invaluable to savvy punters.

As for Jonjo O'Neill - the jockey of Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle winner Dawn Run who turned his hand to training in 1990 and has won both the Gold Cup and Grand National this decade - he is as shrewd as a snake and is more than likely to have one or more horses lined-up for a huge run in one of the notoriously tough Cheltenham Festival handicaps.

Go Conquer, who is entered in 2m-5f and 3m-1f handicap chases at the Festival could be one such improver. Forza Milan, who has also climbed up the official ratings courtesy of four runner-up finishes (and one win) over hurdles is another to consider in the three-mile Pertemps Network handicap hurdle.

It's a Betting War

Of course racecourse whispers and tips are both the fabric and stitching of the war which is punters vs bookmakers and the 'old enemy' is starting to play the fairer game these days.

Old rules of engagement such as 'all in run or not' have been dispensed with and from Christmas time onwards the major betting firms offer up 'non-runner no bet' terms on the Cheltenham Festival which stimulate betting interest while giving the punters a fair chance.

But, as online bookmakers would much prefer to have your money in their satchels and running on a horse of some kind, they have also unveiled new markets such as a defined horse 'to win any race at the Cheltenham Festival'.

Last Minute Gambles

Of course all of this is relevant to ante-post Cheltenham betting markets, on bets placed between now and race day. And the Cheltenham Festival has been known to produce some monumental gambles in the hours and minutes prior to race time.

Those of a certain vintage will recall Destriero, owned by JJ Furlong, an Irish carpet manufacturer, better known as Noel, having been born on Christmas Day, winning the 1991 Supreme Novices Hurdle.

His twice-raced five-year-old was a double-digit unconsidered runner and remained so until price the jockeys and horses made their way to the start. At which point the cash came for his horse, bucket loads of it! In what was considered to be one of the most competitive races of that year's Festival, Destriero's odds had been hammered down from 16/1 to 6/1 by the time the starting tapes rose.

Indeed, Furlong's coup was carried out with clinical precision and the result was equally impressive. His horse took up the lead turning for home winning readily by four lengths from the subsequent Champion Hurdle winner Granville Again. The gamble, one of the best in Cheltenham Festival history, netted an undisputed 2 million in winning bets.