Cheltenham Gold Cup Trends: All the vital stats ahead of the festival showpiece
We are set for one of the most competitive Cheltenham Gold Cup showpieces in recent times, as a plethora of horses will fancy claiming victory in the Cheltenham Festival showpiece on March 18. Many punters will take a look back at the history of the race for any pointers, and here we pick out some eye-catching trends that could help you pick the winner of the feature contest on the last day of the meeting...
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the ultimate test for a racehorse, and in recent times it has seen the older generation - those in double-figures in the age bracket - struggle in the 3m 2f 70y event. Since 2000 every winner of the race has been aged between six and nine - with the solitary six-year-old winner being Long Run, who bounded to glory over old stalwarts Kauto Star, Denman and Imperial Commander in an epic 2011 Gold Cup. So, over the last 20 years it's been horses aged seven to nine that have stormed to victory, with, incidentally, the last ten-year-old winner coming back in 1998 when Cool Dawn won the prize.
Dual Gold Cup winner Al Boum Photo is set for another crack at this year's event, but the Willie Mullins-trained raider has now reached ten years old, so history suggests he may struggle, while the former runner-up Santini is another that heads into the event as a ten-year-old, so could well find it tough.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a race that attracts only the elite staying chasers, so many of the leading contenders have already shown to be top class performers and have most likely tasted Graded success before lining up in the race. In recent years it has proven beneficial to head to the Cheltenham Festival in good form and nine of the last 12 winners of the race had won on their previous outing.
Prior to Minella Indo last year, the last horse to not taste victory in the race before his Cheltenham Gold Cup win was Lord Windermere back in 2014, so the six winners between them have been victorious in their prep run for Cheltenham, which is a huge positive for the likes of Galvin, Chantry House, Protektorat and Tornado Flyer, who all got their heads in front last time out. For those fancying reigning champion Minella Indo and last year's runner-up A Plus Tard then they will have to hope they can break the recent trend, as they both suffered defeat on their last racecourse visit.
Cheltenham Festival Form
One thing that Cheltenham racecourse provides for a racehorse is a real test of stamina, as the undulating track and the tough uphill run-in can often find holes is even the finest of equine talents. Well, not only is Cheltenham form crucial to have with six of the last 12 winners having tasted victory at Cheltenham prior to their Gold Cup wins, as the likes of Denman, Bobs Worth, Lord Windermere (All RSA) and Native River (NH Chase) have all won over fences before winning their Gold Cups, but with previous experience comes a chance for the horses to get accustomed with the atmosphere and cacophonous noise that comes with a festival.
Last year's winner Minella Indo has previous festival winning form as he was a winner of the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle earlier in his career, while Gordon Elliott's Galvin won the National Hunt Chase last season, so will be aiming to emulate the mighty Native River. Chantry House won the Marsh Novices' Chase last season, while Al Boum Photo is another prominent figure in the betting with proven festival form.
Back in 1990 100/1 outsider Norton's Coin defeated the legendary Desert Orchid to become the biggest-priced winner in the history of the race, but in recent times it has often seen the more fancied contenders coming out on top with their only being two double-figured priced winners since the turn of century (Lord Windermere 20/1 in 2014) and Al Boum Photo (12/1 in 2019). In that time since 2000 there have been nine winning favourites, with the majority of the winners coming from the first few in the betting.
Minella Indo was a 9/1 winner to win the event 12 months ago, and he's about half that price to claim glory once again, while others towards the head of the market include A Plus Tard, Galvin, Protetkorat and Al Boum Photo the only other challengers available at single-figured odds. While there's some obvious quality beyond that top five in the betting, that quintet could be potentially a cut above, and it's hard to see that stat on single figured priced winners being hit hard in 2022.
Official ratings can provide some vital information on a horse's chances in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, and it's usually a race that does see class prevail, as 11 of the last 12 winners have been rated 164 or higher, with Lord Windermere (rated 152) the only horse that didn't fit in that bracket. Of those 11 rated 164+ five were actually rated 170 or more, and there are three contenders that head into the Gold Cup with a 170+ rating.
A Plus Tard heads the ratings at 174, while Minella Indo is 1lb lower with a mark of 173, while the third in the bracket is the dual winner Al Boum Photo, who has a current BHA rating of 170. Irish-trained duo Galvin and Tornado Flyer are next in the ratings with 167, but with both having won impressively last time out then they could both be capable of an improvement on those numbers.