The Cheltenham Gold Cup offers punters the chance to take on the might of the bookies in the pinnacle of the jumps racing calendar. If you think that betting on the Gold Cup looks like mission impossible, then do not despair, as our betting guide should give you a few handy pointers to picking out a winning selection.
The amount of runners in the Gold Cup (22 is the highest amount of horses going to post) can sometimes put off those of us looking at betting on the race, however if we look a little closer, the form stands up remarkably well. Over the past 11 years horses that have appeared in the top three of the betting have always won the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
It is easy to suggest that the Gold Cup is a race that runs purely to form and in essence, as a punter, we should be looking to the top of the betting market for the winner of the race. I agree that following the betting market is of importance, however our betting guide will look to identify the other key trends that can help you to pick out the eventual winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. At least we hope this will be the case when betting on the next Gold Cup!
So, we have established that there is evidence to suggest that the favourites perform well in the Gold Cup, but what else can you expect to find in our Gold Cup betting guide? To help you with your Gold Cup betting, we will look at the key trends of the race, analyse the preparation races that take place before the big event and also check out the past results, along with the other key races at the Cheltenham Festival.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup is classified as a Grade 1 National Hunt race.
In recent years the Gold Cup has had a start time of 15:20 on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival, which is a Friday.
The Gold Cup is open to horses of 5 years and older.
The race is contested over a distance of approximately 3 miles and 2.5 furlongs.
There was a total prize fund in 2011 of half a million pounds and the winner will usually receive approximately £290k.
There are a total of 22 fences for the chasers to navigate.
History of the Race
These days it seems as if sport is all about money. Back in the early days of jumps racing, it was far more important just to have a ruddy good time and enjoy the sport for what it was, alongside a few glasses of ale.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup was actually originally run on the area surrounding the course and not on what we now know as the modern day race course. If you do not know the one that I mean, you may remember Paddy Power doing their “Hollywood” esq branding on the hill behind the main race course about 2/3 years ago.
This area is actually called Cleeve Hill and way back in 1819, believe it or not, the Gold Cup was originally run here and not on the main track. What jumps racing fanatics may find even more mind bogglingly outrageous is that the Cheltenham Gold Cup actually began as a flat race – astounding!
Anyway, the prize pool for the first ever Cheltenham Gold Cup was a whopping 100 guineas. So how much is a guinea worth? In modern day terms it is said to be one pound and five pence, however back in 1819 it was worth one pound sterling on the nose. So there you have it, the first ever Gold Cup was competed for over a prize fund of £100. Some way away from the £500k prize money that will be on offer for the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup.
I could not find out any information about the betting for the first ever Gold Cup, however I will keep you posted if I do find anything.
I did however find out that the horse that triumphed in the “Blue Riband” of jumps racing was Spectre. Well done Spectre!
The Cheltenham Gold Cup as we know it today was first raced as a jumps event on March 12th 1924, however the course was last changed in 1959, so for many people this marks where the modern era of the Gold Cup began. The track where the Gold Cup was run between 1924 – 1959, is now referred to as the “Old Course”, whereas the “New Course” refers to all runnings of the Gold Cup post 1959.
Funnily enough, the Gold Cup in 1924 was not classed as the most lucrative, nor the most exciting event at the festival and the preferred event for jumps racing enthusiasts was The National Hunt Chase.
The Gold Cup was actually contested for £685 back in 1924, a far cry from the figures that will be going to the winner and the placed horses of the upcoming Gold Cup.
Interestingly, jumps racing was still hugely popular back in 19th century and up-to 50,000 spectators would gather on any given day to take in the running of the Gold Cup. Numbers are actually pretty similar in recent years, with the Cheltenham Festival in 2011 seeing crowds of approximately 56,250 racing enthusiasts per day pass through the turn styles.
You may not know that over the course of its history, the Gold Cup has been abandoned or cancelled on 5 separate occasions. More recently, jumps racing and also flat racing was decimated by the foot and mouth outbreak in the UK in 2001, so the Gold Cup was cancelled in March 2001 as a result of the epidemic.
If we roll back to 1943 and 1944, World War II meant that the Cheltenham Festival and the Gold Cup were cancelled for obvious reasons. In 1931 the ground at Cheltenham was just too frosty to race on, so the Gold Cup was abandoned, likewise in 1937, but this time because the Old Course was water logged, due to severe flooding.
In the entire history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the horse finishing in first place has only ever been disqualified once, in 1980. The unlucky horse was Tied Cottage, who failed a doping test shortly after the race. It was happy days for Master Smudge though; the second place horse and his trainer Arthur Barrow must have been in seventh heaven.
Identifying the key trends associated to previous Gold Cup winners is a good place to start when attempting to find a value bet for the biggest jumps race in the calendar.
- I personally like my betting selections for the Gold Cup to have placed at a previous Cheltenham Festival and to have proven form at the track. It sounds like an obvious point, however if we look back at recent years, then we can see that out of the last 14 Gold Cup winners, 12 of these horses have placed at the festival in previous runs.
- Horses who have previously won in grade 1 company are an essential selection for finding the winner of the Gold Cup. The past 11 winners of the race have all previously won a Grade 1 race before winning the Gold Cup, so it essential that our betting selections have raced and won at the highest level.
- It is also worth noting that the vast majority of horses who win the Gold Cup will go into the race having won a race during the current season. Again, this sounds obvious, however this form statistic applied to 11 out of the previous 12 winners of the Gold Cup, so tells us that it is a key trend. If your horse has not won a race during the current season, then unfortunately (looking at the past 12 years) you only have approximately an 8.3% chance of betting on the winner!
- 50% of the time over the past 20 runnings, the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup will be a horse in its second season of chasing. It is interesting to note that horses that are relatively lightly raced within chasing terms have a good strike rate in the race. So, as a punter, betting on horses that are classed as progressive chasers in the Gold Cup, rather than relative novices or old hands to the race, seems to be the way forward as far as finding the winner is concerned.
- If a horse is too lightly raced over fences, the chances are that it will not perform well over the testing track at Cheltenham and will consequently struggle to win the Gold Cup. If we look over the past 50 years (actually just under 50 years), there has only been 1 Gold Cup Winner who has won the race with under 6 steeplechase races completed in its career.
- Age is also an important factor to consider. The winner of the Gold Cup in 2011, Long Run, was the first six year-old to win the race in almost 50 years.
- The average age of the winner in the past 10 renewals has been just under 8 years. 6 year old and 10 year old horses do win the Gold Cup, however my recommendation would be to look at runners between the ages of 7 – 9 years.
- Does the trainer have a significant impact on the horse’s ability to win the race? Whilst I am a strong believer in the statistics associated to trainer/jockey strike rates for particular courses, I do not believe that we should focus on the trainer to find the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
- Trainers to have dominated the Gold Cup over recent years are Paul Nicholls and Henrietta Knight, with 3 wins apiece over the past 10 renewals.
- I also pay little attention to jockey bookings for the Gold Cup, as there is little evidence to suggest this is a key factor in finding the winner of the race. In recent years Tim Culloty (Best Mate, 3 wins) and Ruby Walsh (Kauto Star, 2 wins) hold the most success, however I believe the key factor here is the quality of the horse, rather than the jockey booking.
- From 2000 to 2011 there have been 7 winning favourites of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. These were Long Run (2011), Kauto Star (2009 & 2007), Kicking King (2005), and Best Mate (2002, 2003 & 2004).
- Only 2 favourites won the Gold Cup between the years of 1980 to 2000, Master Oats (1995) and Desert Orchid (1989).
- From the year 1980 onwards, 9 favourites have won the race, although interestingly 7 of these favourites won from 2000 onwards. In recent years, it has certainly been a case of sticking to the top of the market for finding the winner of the Gold Cup.
- Everybody loves a grey and who was the last grey to win the Gold Cup? Everybody’s favourite, Desert Orchid, who went off as 10/3 favourite back in 1989.
- The longest priced horse to win the Gold Cup over the past 25 years was Norton’s Coin, who staggered the crowd and delighted the bookies at a massive price of 100/1 in 1990.
Gold Cup Trainers
I am a huge fan of the signposts section in the Racing Post. For those of you who are not accustomed to what this is, it is basically a directory of betting statistics and data for the days racing. Information you can glean from these pages includes: Trainer and Jockey Strike Rate, Jockey Course Strike Rate, Travel Statistics, One Trick Jockeys, Hot and Cold Trainers, Hot and Cold Jockeys etc.
So what does this have to do with betting on the Gold Cup you may ask? Well, within these pages, we also wanted to look at trends associated to trainers of winning horses of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Hopefully this will also help us to find the eventual winner of the race in 2012.
Over the past 10 years two trainers in particular have dominated the honours for the Cheltenham Gold Cup: Paul Nicholls and Henrietta Knight. Although neither trainer has won the Gold Cup over the past two years, Nicholls dominated the latter stages of the 2000’s, notching three successive wins with Kauto Star (2007/2009) and Denman (2008).
The prolific and fondly remembered Best Mate won the Gold Cup for Henrietta Knight three times in the early 2000’s, with victories in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Trainer strike rates and form are important to me in my betting on the Cheltenham Festival, however with regard to the Gold Cup in particular, I do not think that tracking specific trainers gives you an edge.
Whilst there have been a number of trainers to win the Gold Cup multiple times over recent years, I believe that other factors play a greater part in identifying those horses with the greatest potential to win the race. Check out our trends section (link) to assess the course form, recent form and average age credentials that may guide you to the winner of the Gold Cup.
The Horses Age
You may have wondered if the age of a horse can help to predict the chances of its success in the Gold Cup. Happily, the age trends do provide some help in identifying the consequent winner. Over the past 20 years, horses between the ages of 6 to 10 have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup. The 2011 winner, Long Run, was the youngest horse to win the race since 1963, at 6 years old.
Over the past 20 years, 9 year old horses have fared the best in the Gold Cup, winning on 7 occasions. If you are looking at age as an indicator to finding a good bet for the Gold Cup, then past results suggest that horses between the ages of 7 to 9 perform best.
The Betting Market
Each and every one of the past 11 winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been within the first three horses of the betting.
It is also interesting to note that favourites for the Gold Cup have performed remarkably well over the past 10 years, with 7 of the 10 winners heading to post as favourite. If you are looking at betting on the Gold Cup, then perhaps stick to the top end of the market, as the above trends demonstrate that the form stands up well.
This tends to be the way in group races, as without handicapping involved, ability alone should rule the roost and the bookmakers are fully aware of the horses that have shown the potential to be able to win the Gold Cup.
In terms of looking at getting a good value bet on the Gold Cup, it is always worth following the trial races to find some ante-post value. The trial races are a good place to start when assessing the main contenders with the potential ability to win the race.
As the betting market evolves after the entrants to the Gold Cup have raced in preliminaries, the prices on offer from the bookmakers will fluctuate. The best outcome for those of us betting ante post on the Gold Cup is to back a horse at a generous price after a promising run in a trial race and then look for the same horse to have form franked, or to beat another contender in another preliminary race. This way, you will have the opportunity to lay your bet off, or just be safe in the knowledge that you have got on at a value price and your 20/1 shot is now trading at 4/1 on Gold Cup day.
The key to betting successfully on the ante-post Gold Cup market is purely to soak up all of the trial races where the contenders are taking part and try to find a value price for a horse that you believe looks to have the ability and characteristics to win the race. Remember, all of the bookmakers will price up the chances of these horses differently immediately after the trial races, so if you see a stand out price you like the look of, remember to get on quickly, as it may not be available for long.
To summarise, I think the basics to finding the eventual winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup are as follows:
- Previously placed at the Cheltenham Festival. (12 of 14)
- Previously won in Group 1 company. (11 of 11)
- From the top 3 in the betting market. (Last 11 winners)
- Have an official rating of 166 or higher. (9 of 10)
- Must have won a race during the current season. (11 of 12)
- Ideally a second season chaser. (10 of 20)
- Between 7 – 9 years old. (16 of 18)
So there we have it ladies and gentlemen, a glorious betting guide to finding the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Stick to the basics and you could find yourself on the road to punting heaven. On a final note, if you are betting on the Gold Cup, then take a look at the promotions on offer from the trusted partners of Sportsbook Guardian (link) and claim your free bet for the big race! Happy punting to you all.