By Sean Goff | Cheltenham 2013
The scene is set for one of the most open Gold Cups in history but the Paddy Power Blog team have
spent a few hours on the doss gone through the form with a fine tooth comb to help you narrow down the likely winner. The past 10 runnings of the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a boffins’ wet dream and there are some stand-out bookie-bashing stats to help you identify the winner.
1. Form is temporary – class is permanent
All 10 winners of jumps racing’s most-prized crown went into the race with an official rating of 166. That’s the ‘mark’ that the National Hunt handicapper has given them based on their performances on the track – not what they might do, not what you hope they’ll do or not what your sister’s boyfriend’s mate who use to work in the bookies thinks they’ll do.
While Bobs Worth, Long Run, Captain Chris, Silviniaco Conti, and Sir Des Champs are all Grade One winners Captain Chris have yet to win a top-tier race over 3m. When push comes to more push up Cleeve Hill you need to be confident your selection will stay the 3m 2f trip.
Cape Tribulation’s victory in bottomless ground in the Argento Chase makes him interesting for the places – particularly if the ground turns testing. A winner of a Grade 2 and 3 chase he is going the right way but needs to step up again.
2. It’s all very odds
If you don’t fancy wading through the ground, the distance, the quality of race mumbo-jumbo then this stat should make you take notice. All 10 winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup since 2002 have started in the first three in the betting.
3. Act your age
Long Run became the youngest winner of the Gold Cup – since Mill House (1963) – when seeing off Kauto Star in 2011. Cool Dawn was the last 10-year old winner in 1998 but since then all winners bar Long Run have been aged between seven and nine.
4. Horses for courses
The 3m 2f trip of the Cheltenham Gold Cup makes unique demands on the runners and riders. A previous run at the track – preferably a winning run – has been a big factor in recent years.
Synchronised turned that stat on its head a little last year (previous best at Cheltenham was sixth in a handicap hurdle in 2010). This year’s ante-post favourite Bobs Worth is unbeaten in four starts at Cheltenham including last season’s 3m Grade One RSA Chase.
All of the main English contenders of Bobs Worth (four wins), Long Run (2011 GC winner) , Captain Chris (2011 Arkle winner), Cape Tribulation (2013 Argento Chase, 2012 Pertemps Final winner) have solid course form to recommend them. There’s a slight negative about Silviniaco Conti who’s best run at the track was a 3rd place in the International Hurdle in 2010 but has never raced over fences there.
Irish challenger Sir Des Champs (Jewson Chase winner 2012, Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle 2011) is a dual course winner and seems to save his best for the Cotswolds.
5. Big-race pointers
The Lexus Chase at Leopardstown and the King George VI Chase at Kempton have been key trials to finding the Gold Cup winner over the past decade. The winner has run in – but not necessarily won – either race.
Imperial Commander who won 2010 Gold Cup was unplaced in 2009 King George. The 2002 Gold Cup winner Best Mate was second in the King George four months earlier and War of Attrition was second in the 2005 Lexus before winning the 2006 Gold Cup.
So if you fancy Sir Des Champs – who finished in a bunch behind Tidal Bay in the Lexus – don’t be put off especially as he took the Hennessy en route to the blue riband. Captain Chris who narrowly went down to Long Run in the King George VI Chase could also cause a surprise but seems better suited to right-handed tracks.
The improving Bobs Worth deserves his place at the top of the market and seems to just do enough to get his head in front. His form in winning the RSA Chase and Hennessy Gold Cup is rock solid and was franked by First Lieutenant (second in the Ryanair on Thursday) and Tidal Bay in the Lexus.
Barry Geraghty’s mount has proved himself on softer ground and if anything, should improve on better spring going. While only two RSA Chase winners (Looks Like Trouble 1999, Denman 2007) from the last 15 have collected Gold the following season – Bobs Worth taking win in the Hennessy and unbeaten record at Cheltenham makes him the one they all have to beat.
The one big negative however is that he has had only one run this season and no horse has won jumps racing’s blue riband off the back of one run for 22 years.
Silviniaco Conti is improving and the Paul Nicholls / Ruby Walsh partnership have won four of the last 10 Gold Cup renewals with Kauto Star and Denman. Silviniaco Conti has done everything asked of him in winning the Charlie Hall and Betfair Chase (beating Long Run) and Denman Chase at Newbury last time but is a virgin over the Cheltenham fences.
Sir Des Champs looks like he’s been primed for this day but has to get his jumping together and regular rider Davy Russell was stood down by the doctor on Thursday.
Bobs Worth can make it five wins from five at the Cotswolds while stable-mate Long Run can run into a place.