Cheltenham Gold Cup Betting

The most anticipated event of the four-day Cheltenham Festival held each March is the totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup. Conducted as the fourth race of the fourth and final day of the schedule, it is a Class A Grade 1 National Hunt chase open to horses aged five years old and upwards. It covers a distance of three miles and two and a half furlongs and offers twenty-two fences to be negotiated along the way.

The very first event ever called the Cheltenham Gold Cup was a three-mile flat race won by a horse name Spectre near the current venue in 1819. The jumps version that has endured to this day was inaugurated in 1924 on what is now known as the Cheltenham Old Course. One of the highlights of the early runnings was a Thoroughbred named Golden Miller, an Irish gelding that prevailed here for five straight years, from 1932 to 1936, while winning the 1934 Grand National and an Aintree course record along the way.

Nowadays, it is hard to believe that the Cheltenham Gold Cup once ran in the shadows of the National Hunt Chase, considered nothing more than a trial for the Grand National. After World War II, the Gold Cup became clearly recognised as the most prestigious of all National Hunt events—the “Blue Riband” of jump racing. As the organisers put it, the Gold Cup is now “the event that everyone wants to win.”

This race is home to the big hat-trick. It is where the Vincent O’Brien-trained Cottage Rake carried jockey Aubrey Brabazon to triple victory in 1948~1950. Here, Pat Taaffe rode Arkle to his own string of three triumphs in 1964~1966. And then Best Mate, with Jim Culloty aboard, turned in the most recent threepeat in 2004~2006.

The Gold Cup Roll of Honour includes Arkle’s keen competitor, the 1963 winner Mill House, as well as 1984 Champion Hurdle winner Dawn Run succeeding here in 1986 plus the hero of 2007 and 2009, Kauto Star. It features owner Dorothy Paget, a seven-time winner with Roman Hackle (1940) and Mont Tremblant (1952) in addition to Golden Miller. And it lists Arkle’s trainer Tom Dreaper, who also won here with Prince Regent (1946) and Fort Leney (1968).

Since 1959, the Cheltenham Gold Cup has been contested on the left-handed turf of the New Course. Five-year-old entrants carry a weight of 11 stone 9 pounds, while those aged six and older bear 11 stone 10. There is a 7-pound allowance for mares.

The very first winner’s purse in 1924 was worth £685, and it went to Humphrey Wyndham, the owner of victorious Red Splash. In 2010, the prize pool was £475,000, of which £270,798 was awarded to Our Friends in the North, the owners of winner Imperial Commander. Now, in 2011, the Cheltenham Gold Cup further cements its claim as the most valuable non-handicap chase in Britain, featuring a total fund of £500,000.

Apart from the monetary rewards, over the years, the Gold Cup has given British Horseracing some its finest moments, too. One of the most memorable was Michael Dickinson’s incredible training feat, bringing the first five finishers home in 1983. Another was Desert Orchid’s 1989 victory in the mud and rain, voted by Racing Post readers as the greatest ever race.

Anyone looking for trends in Cheltenham Gold Cup history will find them aplenty. For example, age can be telling. There has been no winner above ten years old since 1969 and in the past 17 runnings only one ten-year-old victor has emerged—Cool Dawn in 1998. What’s more, only four ten-year-olds have placed since 1992 out of 35 that started, while 16 winners (and all of the most recent eleven) have been between the ages of seven and nine.

Form is another good indicator of performance in the Gold Cup. In the last 23 races, 21 winners had finished in the top four their last time out. All but two of the most recent 13 winners placed at the Festival before, and all but one of the last eleven had won a race in the same season. Look for horses officially rated at 166+, to do well, too, having produced nine of the past ten winners.

Regarding odds, don’t look for long-shots to pay off. Five of the last eight runnings have been won by the favourite, and all of the last ten winners approached the starting line among the top three in the betting.

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