The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the richest and most prestigious Grade 1 contest of the year and excitement is mounting ahead of the 2019 renewal. The leading chasers from across the UK and further afield will battle it out for a share of the £625,000 prize purse. An extremely strong field is expected once again and punters will be analysing the horse racing news and studying the form to the nth degree in the build-up to the big race. Here are some historical trends to bear in mind before making a selection:
All of the last 16 winners of this world-famous race had previously won a Grade 1 contest, so you might want to rule out any runners that are untested at this level. Last year second favourite Native River romped to victory for Colin Tizzard, finished four and a half lengths clear of the highly rated Might Bite. He already had a Grade 1 victory under his belt, and he had also emerged successful at the Hennessy Gold Cup, the Denman Chase and the Welsh Grand National so he was pretty well backed to win the big race at Cheltenham and he duly delivered.
The last time a horse aged 10 won this race was 1998, and since then horses aged nine and under have dominated, suggesting that a degree of youthful stamina is necessary to seize this race. However, the only six-year-old runner to win the Gold Cup in the past 50 years is Long Run, so you want to look at that sweet spot of seven to nine years old when picking out your selection.
Fourteen of the past 16 Gold Cup winners were in the top three in the betting. The big race comes towards the end of the National Hunt season, and by that time punters and odds compilers have a pretty strong grasp of what sort of shape the various runners are in. They will have watched a number of important trials and big races like the King George VI Chase and the Betfair Chase, and seen how well equipped the runners are to handle different conditions and courses during the season, so they typically have a strong idea of the leading lights by the time the Festival begins in March. The two horses to buck the recent trend are Sizing John, who won at 7/1 in 2017 and was fourth in the betting, and Lord Windermere, a 20/1 shot in 2014. Thirteen of the last 15 winners were rated at 166 or higher, so this is a race that has been dominated by the stars of the sport in recent years.
Ahead of the 2014 Gold Cup, punters were advised to back horses that had not raced previously in that calendar year. Nine of the previous 10 winners had not seen action since the turn of the year, and freshness was held up as crucial for success in this race. However, the situation has now completely flipped and the past five winners have all raced previously in that calendar year. However, it is worth noting that eight of the last 10 winners had more than 10 previous runs over fences
The Cheltenham Gold Cup has officially been running since 1924 and in that time just seven horses have won it more than once. Kauto Star became the last dual winner when he seized victory in 2009, joining a pantheon of greats that also includes Arkle, Golden Miller, Cottage Rake, L’Escargo and Easter Hero. That could spell trouble for Native River, who will aim to double up for Colin Tizzard this year.
Nine of the last 10 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners had run between two and five races earlier that season, making it another sweet spot to look out for. Eight of the last 10 champions had won a Graded chase earlier in the season. Eight of the past 10 winners also ran in either the King George VI Chase at Kempton or the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown over the preceding Christmas period. 15 of the last 17 winners had secured some sort of victory earlier that season.
Nine of the last 10 winners had previously clinched victory at three miles or further, so you might want to cross off any runners that have not displayed a proven ability over this sort of trip. A further 11 of the last 15 winners had either won or finished second at the Cheltenham Festival previously, showing the importance of strong experience on this course.