The Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching and the odds are constantly fluctuating as punters begin to dip their toes in the choppy, unpredictable waters of ante-post betting.
One race that already looks like a foregone conclusion from a betting perspective is the prestigious Gold Cup, with Galopin Des Champs as short as 13/8 — making the Willie Mullins-trained horse one of the smallest-priced favourites for the Blue Riband race this millennium.
It would be foolish to write off a race as competitive as the feature that easily, however. So, instead of thinking Galopin Des Champs is going to win because the bookies have made him the clear favourite in the Gold Cup odds, let’s look at some of the key trends and stats from the last 12 years to dig a little deeper.
11 of the last 12 winners were aged between seven and nine, with six-year-old Long Run the last horse to buck that trend in 2011. Only two seven-year-olds and as many nine-year-olds have won in the last 12 years too, with eight-year-olds triumphant on seven occasions.
Scratched: Minella Indo, Coole Cody
Nine of the last 12 Gold Cup victors won on their last outing before the Festival, with the already scratched 2021 winner Minella Indo, defending champion A Plus Tard and shock 2014 outsider Lord Windermere the only exceptions.
Scratched: Stattler, A Plus Tard, Noble Yeats, Protektorat, Fury Road, Sounds Russian, Shishkin, Royale Pagaille, Envoi Allen, Eldorado Allen, Franco De Port, Galvin, Angels Breath, Ga Law
Course and distance form
Race form has scratched a lot of the early entries, so let’s see how the remaining potential runners fare on course and distance form. One of the most important stats thus far is that all of the last 12 winners have had at least one previous run at Prestbury Park. A win at Cheltenham isn’t as key, with just six of the last 12 boasting previous Festival victories.
In terms of distance, all but one of the last 12 winners have had at least two runs over three miles or further and the same number had at least one victory over that distance. To delve a little deeper, eight of the last 12 had at least two wins over three miles or further.
Scratched: Hewick (never had a run at Cheltenham)
11 of the last 12 winners were rated 164 or higher, which keeps our six remaining early entries — Gaolpin Des Champs (181), Bravemansgame (181), Ahoy Senor (174), Conflated (176), The Real Whacker (164) and Capodanno (164) — in the running.
Grade 1 wins
With the Gold Cup being the most prestigious race there is in jumps racing, it will perhaps comes as no surprise that all of the last 12 winners have won at least one Grade 1. Seven of the 12 have won two, but that’s not enough to scratch a horse on that basis.
Scratched: The Real Whacker
Nine of the last 12 winners had at least two runs in the same season, with all but one having won at least once.
Fence and hurdle form
While the Gold Cup is, of course, contested over fences, it is interesting to note that all of the last 12 winners had at least four runs over hurdles before going chasing. That sees us say goodbye to Ahoy Senior, who raced just twice over the smaller obstacles — albeit winning both.
In terms of chase form, this is where it gets interesting. 10 of the last 12 winners had at least seven previous runs over fences, which puts a slight doubt besides Galopin Des Champs as the Gold Cup will only be his seventh attempt.
However, all of the last 12 had at least two chase wins and all but one had three wins over fences. The Mullins-trained horse meets those requirements, so we will let him off the fact he hasn’t experienced seven chases.
That leaves us with just three potential winners – Galopin Des Champs, Bravemansgame and Conflated. But, considering that just five of the last 12 winners were the favourites and only two were 10/1 or bigger, we’d have to side with Bravemansgame.
Winner: As an eight-year-old with two wins from two this season, six wins in seven chases, three career Grade 1s, a Cheltenham run under his belt, multiple wins over three miles and a rating of 181, Bravemansgame is our Gold Cup winner.