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Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase
This year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup is to be contested on Friday 17th March at this year’s Cheltenham Festival. This three mile and two furlong Grade One is known for being the most valuable non-handicap National Hunt event held. The pot this year will be £575,000.
Our tip for the Gold Cup was posted back in January, and is now available at a general 10/3 price which we still think offers good value given the number of horses which have dropped out of the race. Good luck to everyone on with us at 12/1!
Our Cheltenham Gold Cup tip for 2017 is the Willie Mullins trained Djakadam, runner-up in this race in both 2015 and 2016. Beaten in 2015 by the outstanding Coneygree by under two lengths – a novice who ran to a rating equal to Denman – he followed it up with a four length second place finish behind Don Cossack who ran the race of his life. Both of those horses will miss the race this year, but Djakadam looks set to try to make it third time lucky.
He is superbly consistent, having finished outside the top three just once in his last ten starts, despite competing in seven Grade 1s; that was a non-complete when falling here in the Cotswald Chase. Since then, his jumping has been up to scratch and he has proven versatile groundwise, with good runs on Good and Good to Soft to go with previous wins on Heavy. He is still only eight years old, but has experience which will prove vital. Also, Willie Mullins has hinted that he may be better than last year, stating: “He is maturing away the whole time and I’d be hopeful he could find a little bit of improvement”.
He fits the trends nicely, having finished third in the Lexus Chase on his second season start, looking tired having won at Punchestown just 17 days earlier. He showed on his seasonal reappearance that he can beat Outlander – despite the Gigginstown horse having a fitness advantage – and he will be trained with a view to peaking for the Festival, so there is not too much concern about his defeat in the Lexus.
The statistical trends for the Cheltenham Gold Cup 2017 to keep in mind when betting are:
- All of the previous 10 winners had already won a Grade 1 Chase
- 9 of the last 10 winners were in the top 3 in the betting market (based off start price)
- 9 of the previous 10 winners were aged between 7 and 9, with 6-year-old Long Run being the exception (four 8yos, four 9yos, one 7yo)
- 8 of the previous 10 winners had between two and four runs that season
- 7 of the last 10 winners had placed at the Festival before (with 5 winning); 3 others were fallers and only Coneygree had not run at the Festival before
- Only 6 of the last 10 winners had a run in the same calendar year
- 5 of the last 10 winners had run in the King George, with two winning
- Of the 5 runners not to compete in the King George, 3 ran in the Lexus (2 wins, one place)
- Only 5 of the last 10 favourites have won
- However, only 1 winner in the last 10 years has been a double figure price
Only two trainers have won more than one Gold Cup – Paul Nicholls dominated the race from 2007 to 2009 with Kauto Star and Denman, while Nicky Henderson trained both Long Run (2011) and Bob’s Worth (2013). Jim Culloty won with Lord Windermere (2014) for one of the only recent big shocks off his rating of just 152. Finally, Nigel Twiston-Davies, Jonjo O’Neill and Gordon Elliott round out the last ten winning trainers with Imperial Commander, the brave Synchronised and Don Cossack respectively.
Trends Analysis: The market often gets it right, even if the race is not always won by the favourite; the lack of big price outsiders winning, along with the high Official Rating trend, shows that. Indeed, seven of the last ten winners had Official Ratings of over 170. The age trend is better viewed as a guide to experience; it is often the older, more mature horses who win Gold Cups, although Coneygree winning as a Novice shows that class can make up for a lack of experience. The trainer trends are hardly a shock either, with the biggest stables well represented. That said, who knows how long Willie Mullins will remain without a Gold Cup win given his current arsenal of top class horses?
The Blue Riband event of the entire Cheltenham Festival in many people’s eyes will see a packed field head off over this three mile plus trip which tests stamina, jumping and heart before the winner is finally crowned for 2017. Each winner enters racing folklore, with the likes of Denman, Kauto Star, Dawn Run, Desert Orchid and, of course, Best Mate all immortalised on the famous trophy.
The centrepiece of the Festival, the Gold Cup Chase, is the final championship race and the biggest staying chase in Britain and Ireland. 22 fences, three miles and two furlongs await the horses in a test of jumping and stamina as they charge up the Cheltenham Hill to the roar of the crowd. Won in the past by horses such as Arkle, Desert Orchid, Kauto Star, Denman and, most recently, Don Cossack, the race has an illustrious roll of honour and is the one all trainers and jockeys want to win.
The whole complexion of the race changed on February 21st, when Thistlecrack was ruled out of the race by Colin Tizzard due to tendon injury. Of the situation, Tizzard stated the following: “He is out of the Gold Cup and won’t run again this season, He had heat in his leg last night. The vet scanned him this morning and it’s a slight tendon tear“. A devastating blow for the race, it changed the market completely, though one thing did not change, Colin Tizzard still has a strong hand.
Installed as said favourite after the injury to his stablemate, Native River has been running through the staying handicap division this season. Finishing an admirable second in the National Hunt Cup at the Festival in March, he went on to Aintree to win the Mildmay Novices’ Chase a few weeks later. He has also been a revelation over fences since reappearing this year. Winning the Hennessy Gold Cup in fine style in November, he moved on to Chepstow where he shrugged off top weight of 11st 12lb to win the Welsh Grand National. Richard Johnson was sweet on the chances of the seven-year-old in the race, stating after his Welsh National win that: “I see he’s now second favourite for the Gold Cup and he has to be a big player as he stays and jumps. If you take Thistlecrack out, it’s a very open race.” That quote certainly now comes to prominence with Thistlecrack indeed out, and this seven year old looks to now be Tizzard’s main player for the staying division showpiece. A very strong galloper who will make this a relentless test, he jumps boldly and much like Coneygree in 2015, he will make it tough for his rivals to get to him. His win in the Grade 2 Denman Chase showed he is more than capable of running well in this sort of company and with all things considered, he may well be a worthy favourite.
Never one to discount is another for Colin Tizzard, and Cue Card certainly now has a better chance with his stable mate taken out of the equation. A fan favourite who is now synonymous with the staying division, he’s a nine time Grade 1 winner for Mrs Jean Bishop who has not been disgraced by any means this season. Returning to his very best when easily winning the Ascot Chase, he continues to prove age is no barrier and has to be given a good chance of winning the race and making amends for last year where he fell three out, arguably travelling the best. He faces some stern opposition again but he’s impossible to discount as going back up in trip from his latest success is bound to suit and any sort of ground is fine. Now a best priced 4/1 and second favourite, the market suggests he looks likely to run his heart out again for his connections and he cannot be underestimated by any stretch of the imagination.
For two years running Djakadam has now bumped into one horse who was just too strong for him in the Gold Cup. Runner-up in the 2015 and 2016 editions, he ran with credit both times but has not yet managed to reach the pinnacle of the staying division – he was just lacking an extra gear on both attempts. His preparation for this year’s race has gone relatively well as he was a game winner of the John Durkan at Punchestown on his comeback run. However, he was unable to get to the leader in the Lexus Chase a month later, finishing third. Although it could be called unlucky (he was shuffled back on the home turn when lacking room and was staying on all the time) he never looked like getting past the eventual winner. He will now head straight to the Gold Cup, with Willie Mullins quoted as saying the Irish Gold Cup will come too soon. However, Mullins still holds every hope that his eight-year-old can still put on a bold performance come March: “I thought he jumped fantastic, I thought he stayed the whole way. We might try a different tactic with him the next time. We might just let the horse enjoy himself more because he was jumping so well.” The extra two furlongs coupled with the Cheltenham hill will certainly suit him better than conditions on his latest runs. He’s another big contender in this.
Better known for his many, many seconds behind Douvan at the two mile trip, Sizing John has shown his true class this season when upped in distance and has announced himself as a very live contender for the race this year. Winning the Grade 3 Kinlock Bare Chase at the 2m 4f trip in January, he then marched on to Leopardstown for the Irish Gold Cup, where he was a very brave winner despite pressure from both Empire Of Dirt and Don Poli, two very stout stayers in their own right. At a best priced 9/1, Mrs John Harrington’s seven year old is likely to have further improvement in him and has the potential to do well in this sphere, not forgetting that was his first attempt at the staying distances. Going to the Gold Cup distance will be an unknown though and with how unrelenting the hill is on the way to the line at Prestbury Park, there has to be some question marks about his stamina. Either way, he is a very interesting each way angle into the race and shouldn’t be discounted for the Potts.
A big drifter in the market after being beaten by Native River in the Denamn Chase, it’s far too early to be giving up on Bristol De Mai. Announcing himself as a major contender when emphatically winning the Peter Marsh Chase at Haydock in January, Nigel Twiston-Davies six year old still remains with potential and as shown by his interview afterwards, Nigel is very sweet on him: “Bristol De Mai’s jumping was superb all the way round, it was a joy to watch. He was a bit buzzy in his early days, but now you can settle him anywhere in a race“. A bold jumper who usually puts his opponents in danger with his attacking approach, he was undeniable disappointing at Newbury when last seen, but he’s still very much capable of better. At a best priced 20/1, he’s a good each way angle into the race now and if back to his best on the day he shouldn’t be one to dismiss for Simon Munir & Isaac Souede, as he still has time on his side.
A horse who is really starting to improve this season is Outlander, who started off the season when second in the Belfast Chase which was a good starting point. Even though he fell in the Clonmel Oil Chase, he was well in command at the time when clouting the final fence. He would almost certainly have won the race that day and was very unlucky. He however made amends a month later when running on strongly to win the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, beating Don Poli and Djakadam and with the more fancied Gigginstown runner Valseur Lido beaten a good way in fourth. Thanks to that, he has now propelled himself into the Each Way picture for the race and Gordon Elliott’s nine-year-old is now a more realistic price. Reopposing Djakadam at the Festival will obviously be tougher, but he was staying on strongly on his previous runs over three miles and the extra two furlongs may well bring out further improvement. He is worth his place in the race against some more established names in the staying division.
Recent winners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup have a great record when appearing in subsequent renewals. Best Mate managed to secure three consecutive titles (2002, 2003, 2004), whilst Kauto Star took home the crown in both 2007 and 2009. He would go on to fall in 2010.
This unlikely misstep from the mount of Walsh put an end to the months of hype regarding the third head-to-head between himself and 2008 winner Denman. It was Imperial Commander who upset the party further as he put seven lengths between himself and fellow front-runner Denman in the closing stages.
Long Run became the first six-year-old since Mill House in 1963 to triumph and ended the run of successive nine-year-old winners. Sam Waley-Cohen held his ride in mid-division for much of the race before tracking the two-time seeking Imperial Commander in third, with Denman and Kauto Star also prominent.
The reigning champion faded quickly and pulled up two out leaving the other two former winners to fight it out at the head of affairs. Long Run sealed victory with a superior jump over the last as his rivals tired. Denman finished second, whilst Kauto Star hung on for third.
The reigning champion went off the 7/4 favourite in 2012. It was not to be for the Waley-Cohen team, however, as Synchronised took the honours despite having to be ridden along in the early stages by AP McCoy. The Jonjo O’Neill trained hold-up horse came from off the pace to break up the leading party of five two out and jumped the last in front, staying on strongly to secure victory from The Giant Bolster and Long Run in second and third respectively.
Bobs Worth sealed the deal in 2013, beating a small field of eight after being prominently placed by Geraghty; the pack was lead by former winner Long Run. The eventual champion looked beaten coming down the hill, but took advantage of the fall of Silviniaco Conti and eventually took the lead with one to jump. Sir Des Champs finished two lengths behind, with Long Run again third.
Nicky Henderson’s Bobs Worth, who was in our Gold Cup tips in 2014, took to the start line again two years ago but could not bring down Lord Windermere – a 20/1 chance who was ridden extraordinarily patiently at the back of the field. The eight-year-old was ridden off the pace before beginning to pick his way through the main body at fence 14. He penetrated the leading pack with a good jump over the second-last and pinched the title from Own His Own, of whom he finished a short head in advance.
2015 was one of the most intriguing years yet, with a “Will he or won’t he (run)?” situation developing for the novice Coneygree. Easy front running winner of all three starts in his first season chasing, the RSA was the obvious option, but his owners and the Bradstocks took the brave decision to run him in the big race. He was the first novice winner since 1974, certainly helped by the late rain leading to Soft ground, but for such an unexposed horse he jumped beautifully and ran his opposition into the ground. Sadly, his season was cut short after just one run (an easy Listed win at Sandown) by injury and he will return to try to regain his crown in 2017. Coneygree was bravely chased home by the Ricci colours who all other owners were, by this point, sick of. Just a six-year-old, his return, along with the development of Don Cossack, could make 2016 one of the most exciting renewals in living memory.
In 2016, Don Cossack claimed victory for Gigginstown House Stud, Gordon Elliott and Bryan Cooper. Sent off the 2/1 favourite, he was rather fortunate that Cue Card fell at the third last fence as he seemed to be travelling the better at the time. However, jumping is the name of this game and if you fall you deserve it, so nothing can be taken away from the winner. Sadly Don Cossack has now been retired and full details are on the article provided.
There are 14 left in the Cheltenham Gold Cup at this stage and they are as follows:
- Bristol De Mai
- Champagne West
- Cue Card
- Empire Of Dirt
- Irish Cavalier
- Minella Rocco
- More Of That
- Native River
- Saphir Du Rheu
- Sizing John
- Smad Place
- Tea For Two