The shoes on the hooves of this year’s Gold Cup competitors have only just cooled yet our thoughts are already on next season’s renewal following three potential winners rearing their heads.
Perhaps the most obvious of these charges is Coneygree, Mark Bradstock’s star novice who became the first horse of his kind to pick up the Gold Cup since Captain Christy in 1974.
JLT Novices’ Chase winner Vautour is also being touted after some faultless jumping saw the Willie Mullins’ mount stick 15 lengths between himself and his nearest rival Apache Stronghold.
Another of Mullins’ stars is Don Poli, who collected the RSA Chase in some style, the Gigginstown representative beating off Southfield Theatre by six lengths.
Of course, it would take a brave person to predict which of these horses would come up trumps in a head-to-head battle on course. Such encounters are surely to come. What might be fun to collate is the probable victor in the eyes of history.
Let’s first take Coneygree. Only six horses have managed to successfully defend their title since the Gold Cup’s inauguration back in 1924. The last of these was Best Mate in 2004, this being his second successful defence following triumphs in 2002 and 2003.
Coneygree is also helped by the fact that he will be moving into the territory of the prime age for Gold Cup winners. In 2016, he will turn nine and will look to become the fifth nine-year-old since 2000 and the 24th in the race’s history to secure the victory. The last successful charge of the same age to earn Gold Cup glory was JP McManus’ Synchronised (2012).
Unlike Coneygree’s title defence, Vautour will be looking to make a piece of history as the first horse to win both the JLT Novices’ Chase and Gold Cup. Whilst it would be correct to remember that the former is newly established (in 2011) and only one JLT winner has taken on the Cheltenham spectacular, it would still be quite the feat. Sir Des Champs was that JLT victor, eventually finishing second in the 2013 Gold Cup.
Both Mullins horses will be seven-years-old in 2016 and whilst Kauto Star was the last charge of that age to finish first past the post (2007) only four seven-year-olds have tasted victory in the last 15 years and only 16 have won the big one in the race’s history.
Perhaps, though, Don Poli is in a better position than his stablemate in that he follows in the hoofprints of eight mounts who have secured the RSA Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup in successive seasons. The last horse to do so was Lord Windermere (RSA: 2013, Gold Cup: 2014).
Don Poli’s owners are also former winners of the March extravaganza after having witnessed War of Attrition romp to victory in 2006.
So maybe then, history favours the new champion and Don Poli – at least they are not without precedent. Whether this will be the result on the track, well, we can’t wait to find out!