Published on March 15th, 2013 | by Atholl Blair
Cheltenham Gold Cup Stats, Trends, Tips, Odds & Offers
Every year in March, on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, one of the most prestigious of National Hunt races in the United Kingdom is run. Covering a distance of 3 miles 2 1/2 furlongs, the Cheltenham Gold Cup takes the horses over 22 fences around the track. This steeplechase event is open to horses aged five and over and has played host to some of the best chasers ever to grace a racecourse. From Golden Miller, Mill House and the mighty Arkle, to more recent years and Best Mate, then of course Kauto Star, its roll of honour features some of the finest the world has ever seen.
The History Of The Gold Cup
Unlike some of the other ‘big’ races held in the United Kingdom, the Cheltenham Gold Cup has had a rather turbulent history. There have been stoppages in the history of the race, and it has even gone through a complete change of format.
What many people don’t realise is that the Cheltenham Gold Cup began life in July 1819 as a flat race which covered three miles. It wasn’t even held on the main track. Instead it was held on Cleeve Hill which overlooks the current track at Cheltenham Racecourse. The race continued to be run in this format until 12th March 1924 when it reverted to its current jump format. Again this race didn’t take place on what is the present track (known as the new course) but on another track at Cheltenham aptly named as ‘Old Course’. Back then it wasn’t even the biggest event at the festival, that honour belonged to the National Hunt Chase.
Over the years the Cheltenham Gold Cup has gone through a number of ‘cancellations’. The first of which occurred in 1931 due to frost on the track, the second in 1937 as a result of flooding. However, during those five years the Gold Cup quickly came into its own and its popularity was boosted when the future Grand National hero Golden Miller won the Gold Cup in five consecutive years. For the most part the race was run throughout World War II, the only cancellations being in 1943 and 1944.
It was in 1959 that the race was switched to its current location. The history of the race remains pretty uneventful (bar a couple of fantastic wins) up until 1975 when it achieved its first sponsor. This was the point where the prize money in the Gold Cup skyrocketed. The sponsor then, Piper Champagne, was replaced by Totesport in 1980 and then by Betfred in 2012, who remain the current sponsor.
In 2001 the Cheltenham Festival was completely cancelled owing to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the United Kingdom. Whilst the actual Cheltenham Gold Cup was not run, a replacement event known as the Gold Trophy Chase, was run at Sandown the following month. Critics ended up panning this event though as it was nowhere near as exciting as the usual Cheltenham offering.
Known as the “Blue Riband” of jump racing, the Gold Cup is the most prestigious event in the National Hunt calendar, where the best horses in training compete for the ultimate prize. This makes it one of the most thrilling races in British horse racing – something that isn’t likely to change any time soon!
Previous Gold Cup Winners
My first memory of the Cheltenham Gold Cup was when Desert Orchid won in a blaze of glory back in 1989, but I had to wait another 13 years to witness the most successful Gold Cup horse in the last 50 years, Best Mate, capture the public’s attention in a similar way. Best Mate, owned by Jim Lewis, trained by Henrietta Knight and ridden by Jim Culloty, was to win the race in three consecutive years and he was the first horse since Arkle in the 60′s to do so, making him the ultimate modern-day champion.
Here are the horses who have found success in the Gold Cup in the last 10 years:
|2012||Synchronised (IRE)||8/1||ONeill, Jonjo||9||167||McCoy, A P|
|2011||Long Run (FR)||7/2||Henderson, N J||6||179||Waley-Cohen, Mr S|
|2010||Imperial Commander (IRE)||7/1||Twiston-Davies, N A||9||174||Brennan, P J|
|2009||Kauto Star (FR)||4/1||Nicholls, P F||9||177||Walsh, R|
|2008||Denman (IRE)||9/4||Nicholls, P F||8||176||Thomas, Sam|
|2007||Kauto Star (FR)||5/4||Nicholls, P F||7||176||Walsh, R|
|2006||War Of Attrition (IRE)||15/2||Morris, M F||7||0||ODwyer, C|
|2005||Kicking King (IRE)||4/1||Taaffe, T J||7||0||Geraghty, B J|
|2004||Best Mate (IRE)||8/11||Knight, Miss H C||9||175||Culloty, J|
|2003||Best Mate (IRE)||13/8||Knight, Miss H C||8||170||Culloty, J|
After Best Mate the most prolific, and probably the best known, winner of the last 10 years has been Kauto Star who won the race in 2007 and then was the first horse in history to regain the title when he won again in 2009. Long Run went down in the record books too, not just for being the first 6 year old to win since Mill House in 1963, but because he recorded the fastest ever time in the race. And who can forget Synchronised who won the Gold Cup in 2012, but the following month ran in the Grand National where he injured himself after unseating his jockey and sadly had to be euthanised on the course.
Here’s a video of the 2012 Gold Cup, so you can see Synchronised in action:
Cheltenham Gold Cup Stats & Trends
The Gold Cup isn’t exactly what I would call a “trends” race as such, not in the way the Aintree Grand National has proven to be over the years anyway, but at the same time it always helps to narrow down the field in these feature races by taking the time to look back over previous winners and to study their characteristics, traits and their ability to deal with the conditions they’ll find on the day.
Factors like age, class, ability and experience are things you should be considering on a daily basis in run-of-the-mill events anyway, but in top class events like the Gold Cup it’s essential to know that your selections are fully equipped to deal with the race conditions and the competition they’ll face.
So, without further ado, these are the things you need to consider in the Gold Cup:
- AGE: Only one 6yo, Long Run, has won the Gold Cup since Mill House in 1963 and in the last 15 years only one horse older than 9yo has won the race too. From the fancied runners this counts against the chance of previous winner Imperial Commander who most definitely has age against him at 12yo. Concentrating on horses aged 7yo-9yo is your best bet.
- CLASS: In the last 15 years there has been four winners with no official rating at the time of the race and from the fancied runners only Sir Des Champs and First Lieutenant meet that criteria. Every other winner has been rated at least 166 and the only contenders this year who qualify on that count are Bobs Worth, Silviniaco Conti, Long Run and Captain Chris.
- ABILITY: All of the last ten winners had previously won a Grade 1 chase, which counts against First Lieutenant, and all of the last ten winners had also had between two and five runs in the current season, which rather surprisingly counts against the hot favourite Bobs Worth. As you’ll see below, he’s actually lacking in experience for a race like this too…
- EXPERIENCE: I’ve tied ability and experience together here, because another noticeable factor is that 9 from the last 10 winners (and this has been evident throughout time) had ran at least six times over fences prior to winning the Gold Cup. Again this counts against Bobs Worth who has only competed in five, but that’s possibly me being picky as he does have a victory in the RSA Chase to his name and he did win the Hennessy very easily last time!
- ODDS: You need to go back to 1999 to find a winner who wasn’t ranked in the first three in the betting market, so this has been a good race for backers over the years. There have been some big-priced winners in its history, not least of all Nortons Coin who won at 100/1 back in 1990, but these are exceptions to the rule and it generally pays to stick to fancied runners.
- COURSE FORM: Course form is key. To find the winner of the Gold Cup you need a horse who has already proven itself at Cheltenham, and preferably at the Festival in March. Bobs Worth, winner of the RSA Chase, Sir Des Champs, winner of the Jewsons, Long Run, winner of the Gold Cup itself, and Captain Chris, winner of the Arkle, all fit the bill on that count.
The key trial race for the Gold Cup is the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, which was won this year by Long Run, as this race has highlighted 9 of the last 13 winners. The Betfair Chase that’s run in November at Haydock was only established in 2006, but has already proven it’s worth as a Gold Cup trial by highlighting the winner three times. The 1-2 in it last year were Silviniaco Conti and Long Run. And the Irish Lexus Chase is another notable trial for the Gold Cup as it’s highlighted the winner no less than 4 times in the last 8 years, although there are questions marks about it this year.
Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips & Analysis
It won’t come as a surprise to discover that when you work through the information above the main contenders are those who fill the top spots in the betting and it’s highly likely that the winner will come from a small group of six horses, so let me start with those that I have the most reservations about.
Bobs Worth (3/1) – is, probably quite rightly, favourite for this after an impressive win in last year’s RSA Chase, followed up with another impressive win in the Hennessy Gold Cup in December, but he’s plenty short enough at 3/1 or less. It worries me that he comes into this with only one run under his belt for the season, that he’s still quite lightly raced for a Gold Cup winner, and perhaps even more significantly that he hasn’t competed in any of the key trials. He may win, but 3/1 is way too short.
Sir Des Champs (4/1) – isn’t my idea of the winner either. I can remember back in December when Flemenstar beat Sir Des Champs in the John Durkan Chase that the form really didn’t impress me much, but both were automatically installed at 6/1 or 7/1 for the Gold Cup. I couldn’t see why then and I still can’t see why Sir Des Champs is as short as 7/2 for the race now. He won the Irish Hennessy well last time, but you need to go back almost 20 years to find the last horse who did that double.
First Lieutenant (12/1) – is a horse I really like, but he’s never won a Chase at the highest level and while he usually does tend to run well, there’s usually at least one or two who are better than him on the day. He was held by Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase last year and again in the Hennessy in December, so it’s difficult to see him turning that form around now and there are others who are probably better than him in this year’s field too. Even at 12/1 I can’t see it, so he won’t be carrying any of my cash.
Captain Chris (16/1) – is another horse that I like and it’s with some reluctance that I’m leaving him out of the calculations here. He couldn’t have been more impressive when he won the Arkle in 2011 and he ran an excellent race to finish a close-up second to Long Run in the King George in December, but his jumping can let him down at times and he won’t get away with that in a fast-run affair like the Gold Cup. He’s best of the outsiders in my book though and may be worth a small each-way bet.
And that brings me to the two who appeal most at the prices:
Silviniaco Conti (available at 5/1)
Paul Nicholls’ newest stable star started his current winning run with an emphatic performance in the Mildmay Chase at Aintree, he then went to Wetherby in November where he destroyed the field in the Charlie Hall Chase, next up was the Betfair Chase in December – which was his first attempt in Grade 1 company – and he comfortably held Long Run and The Giant Bolster, and last time out he won as easily again in the Denman Chase at Newbury. He just keeps on winning his races, and winning them well.
My only slight reservation about Silviniaco Conti is that he’s been doing most of his winning in small fields and on flat tracks, but his slick jumping and authoritative performances have impressed me no end and I feel that the rest could be playing catch-up if he gets into a decent rhythm out in front.
Long Run (available at 13/2)
Probably the most underrated Gold Cup winner in recent years, Long Run has been called many names because of his sloppy jumping and amateur pilot, but he’s never been out of the first three in his career, he’s won the King George twice and when he won the Gold Cup in 2011 he recorded the fastest time in the history of the race. Add to that the fact that he did it as a 6 year old and it makes the performance even more remarkable. I read recently that he’s “over the top” and we’ve seen the best of him already, but he comes here off the back of his second success in the King George and remember too, he’s still only an 8 year old, so his best years should actually be ahead of him.
Those are the two I’ve backed for the Gold Cup this year. A straight win bet on Silviniaco Conti and a smaller each-way bet on Long Run, who has been available at 8/1 and even 10/1 this week. You might get bigger prices than I’ve mentioned here too if you keep your eyes open over the next few days and you should look out for any special offers too, because there’s sure to be many of them available!
Cheltenham Gold Cup Odds
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