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Friday sees the Blue Riband of the entire Cheltenham Festival, the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Four days of exceptional equine action rise to a thrilling crescendo at Prestbury Park. We have our Gold Cup Tips live on the site, as well as runner by runner guides to every single contest in our Cheltenham Festival Tips. What goes into making a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner though?
Three and a quarter miles on a track with a stiff uphill finish is not for the feint of heart, especially this season coming on soft ground. Courage is required to win almost any race at the Cheltenham Festival. Horses in the past (like Harchibald in the Champion Hurdle) can arrive swinging on the bridle, but if they don’t possess the heart and fortitude to go past then a win at the biggest meeting of the year will elude them.
We have already covered the distance of the race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a brutal test of stamina on decent ground let alone on soft. The last time the ground came up soft, Coneygree made every yard of the running to become the first novice in more than forty years to take home the Gold Cup. It hasn’t come up heavy since 1989 when Desert Orchid ensured there wasn’t a dry eye in the house when landing the biggest win of his career.
Golden Miller and L’Escargot were winners of both the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cool Ground a Welsh National, Desert Orchid a Whitbread (now the bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown) all races over 3m5f or above. People quickly forget that Miinnehoma, Rough Quest, Headgehunter, Neptune Collonges and Mon Mome were all placed in a Cheltenham Gold Cup before Grand National glory later in their careers. It’s a race where horses with unproven stamina arrive with a lot on their plate.
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So many top class chasers have tried and come up short. Wayward Lad, Silviniaco Conti and Florida Pearl spring immediately to mind. King George’s, Lexus Chase’s and Irish Gold Cup winners. A slew of Grade 1 wins between them, classy no doubt, but if you don’t have the stamina to get up the hill, then the Cheltenham Gold Cup will never fall your way. That said, it’s tough to win a Gold Cup without an element of class. As our Cheltenham Gold Cup Trends show, thirteen of the last fifteen winners were rated 166 and above. That isn’t to say that we don’t see shocks in the race, Lord Windermere in 2014 is testament to that, but the day’s of Norton’s Coin landing the Cheltenham Gold Cup at 100/1 are gone. You must have the right mix of class and stamina to tame that famous hill.
Despite the soft (heavy in places) ground at the 2018 Cheltenham Festival, that word heavy has been a death knell in the chances of hopefuls for a long time. It’s no surprise that racing on heavy ground takes a toll on horses, leaving less in the tank for future contests. Horses who have run on heavy ground in the same season as running in the Gold Cup have run up a massive 0/79 losing streak! Punters can be forgiven for thinking that the way the ground is this year that heavy ground form would be a positive for the race but beware!
It’s a fascinating renewal of the race in 2018, check out our Cheltenham Gold Cup Tips with a full runner by runner preview for the big race of the week to find out who is cooking up the recipe for success in the Blue Riband.