Gold Cup 2015 betting tips: an intelligent punter's guide
Four great days of jump racing come to a climax today with the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Where should you put your money?
The Cheltenham National Hunt Festival reaches its conclusion today, but with three days down and one more to go, there are still plenty of opportunities to win - and lose - money. But if we bear in mind three key factors before placing our bets, we can help tilt the percentages in our favour.
One, previous festival form: In 2013, 33 per cent of the races were won by horses that had won at a previous festival. True, the figure dropped to 15 per cent last year, but the repeat winners included the 20-1 Gold Cup hero Lord Windermere, and Holywell, a 10-1 winner of the staying handicap chase on the opening day.
Two, trainers’ records at the meeting: While smaller yards can still get winners at the festival, a few select trainers have tended to dominate in recent years. The so-called Big Three - Willie Mullins, Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson - have together trained 83 winners at Cheltenham since 2003, with Mullins registering a total of nine wins in the last two years. This year, the Irish maestro has assembled what looks like his strongest team ever, so it’s no surprise to see him odds-on to be top trainer for the third year running.
Three, those ‘spring horses’: Some horses just come in to their own at this time of year. Lord Windermere, last year’s 20-1 Gold Cup winner for instance, has now won in this corresponding week for the last three years - including twice at the festival - while Holywell, also entered in this year’s Gold Cup, is another whose best form tends to come when the worst of the winter weather is over.
Feature race: The Gold Cup (3.20)
The Blue Riband of jump racing and this year’s race looks particularly intriguing. The favourite is Silviniaco Conti, but while he’s the top horse on the ratings he has been beaten twice in the race before and since 1988 only three horses have won a Gold Cup having been beaten in a previous running. Although it's a hard race to win in successive years - only Best Mate has achieved that since the early 1970s - don't rule out another big run from last year's winner Lord Windermere, who comes to his own at this time of year, while Holywell is another who makes each-way appeal based on his excellent festival record. The Giant Bolster could also represent some value at 33-1 considering he’s been fourth, second and third in the last three renewals.
Triumph Hurdle (1.30)
Since 2004 there’s only been one winner above 10-1 in the betting and six of the winners since then have been priced between 5-1 and 13-2. Outright favourites don’t have an imperious record though, with only one win since 2002. The best trials for this are the Spring Juvenile Hurdle at Leopardstown - which has provided the last three winners - and the Adonis Juvenile Hurdle at Kempton. Petite Parisienne and Beltor won those races this year, and have to be short-listed.
County Hurdle (2.05)
Irish-trained winners have won six of the last eight runnings, and although there was an English-trained winner last year, Irish-trained horses did finish second, fourth and fifth. Weight is also an important factor to bear in mind as only one winner since 2003 has carried more than 11st. So focusing on Irish-trained runners carrying less than 11st looks a sensible policy.
Grand Annual (5.15)
The last race of the festival has been renamed ‘The A P McCoy Grand Annual’ this year, to mark the retiring jockey’s final appearance at the prestigious meeting. McCoy has the choice of quite a few mounts in the race, and whatever he decides to ride looks likely to start off favourite for what could be an emotional end to the festival. Stats-wise, lowly weighted novices tend to do well in this: just two winners since 2004 have carried more than 11st to victory.
Previous tips and results
Feature race: Champion Hurdle (3.20)
There won’t be a dry eye in the house if Hurricane Fly - winner in 2011 and 2013 - can land his third success at the age of 11, but he’ll be without his regular pilot, Ruby Walsh, who has opted to ride the favourite Faugheen. Willie Mullins’s seven-year-old, unbeaten in his eight races to date, is the likeliest winner, but last year’s winner Jezki can’t be discounted, and The New One, unlucky in running in 2014, is another who should be in the mix.
1. Faugheen2. Arctic Fire3. Hurricane Fly
Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1.30)
Last year’s winner Vautour was only the second favourite in 11 years to take the race. But while favourites don’t have a great record, the Irish do. Ten of the last 15 winners were Irish-trained - so ‘Stick with the Irish’ looks like a sensible policy.
1. Douvan2. Shaneshill3. Sizing John
Arkle Trophy (2.05)
Last year’s 33-1 winner Western Warhorse was a real trend-buster as this usually goes to a well-fancied runner. The favourite though was only beaten by a head, so it’s probably wisest to regard last year as an aberration and again concentrate on the market leaders. Odds-on favourite is the Willie Mullins-trained Un De Sceaux, and while he is the likeliest winner, some each-way value could be provided by Josses Hill, who comes from a stable which has landed this twice in the last three years and five times overall.
1. Un De Sceaux2. God's Own3. Josses Hill
3m 1f Handicap chase (2.40)
2014 winner Holywell was only the second horse since 1998 to carry more than 11st to victory, and with three of the other four horses to make the frame also carrying more than 11st we should not be too dogmatic about ruling out horses towards the top of the weights. This is a good race for each-way punters who like backing long-shots, as outsiders have won and made the frame in recent years.
1. The Druid's Nephew2. Grand Jesture3. Gallant Oscar
Mares’ Hurdle (4.00)
Won for the past six years by the remarkable Quevega, who has now retired, her trainer Willie Mullins looks likely to win this again with Annie Power, second in last year’s World Hurdle. Last year’s second-placed Glens Melody is the biggest danger.
1. Glen's Melody2. Polly Peachum3. Bit of a Puzzle
Feature race: Champion Chase (3.20)
This two-mile race could be a classic. Last year’s winner Sire De Grugy faces the returning 2013 champ Sprinter Sacre, who missed last year’s festival due to injury. If trainer Nicky Henderson has got Sprinter Sacre back to something very close to his best, he would have to be favoured, given his better form at Cheltenham. However, this is not just a two-horse race: Champagne Fever looks a good each-way alternative, bearing in mind that he’s recorded two wins and a head second in previous festival appearances.
1. Dodging Bullets2. Somersby3. Special Tiara
Neptune Investment Novices’ Hurdle (1.30)
No horse bigger than 7-1 in the odds has won since 2007, and favourites have won three of the last six renewals. Irish-trained winners have won five of the last nine renewals, and whatever you decide to back, make sure you have at least one Willie Mullins runner on your betting slip: he’s won the race three times since 2008 and last year saddled the first and third.
1. Windsor Park2. Parlour Games3. Nichols Canyon
RSA Chase (2.05)
Irish-bred horses have won ten of the last 11 renewals - and Irish-trained runners have taken the prize in four of the last six years. Don Poli has ticks in the right boxes and looks a worthy favourite, while Apache Jack, third at 20-1 at the festival last year, could represent some each-way value.
1. Don Poli2. Southfield Theatre3. Wounded Warrior
Coral Cup (2.40)
Five of the last six winners of this ultra-competitive handicap hurdle have been either 14-1 or 16-1 in the betting, so pay particular attention to horses which are likely to be in that price range. Another interesting stat to bear in mind is that none of the last seven winners had run more than four times that season: trainers like to protect their charges’ handicap marks for this £80k prize.
1. Aux Ptit Soins2. Zabana3. Activial
Feature race: World Hurdle (3.20)
This is the championship race today. Paul Nicholls, who won this four times with the now-retired Big Buck’s, has a strong hand and saddles two of the market leaders: Zarkandar, a previous festival winner, and Saphir Du Rheu, a course and distance winner. At Fishers Cross, who ran really well to come third last year, is available at around 33-1, and although he hasn’t been in great form he could be over-priced considering his Cheltenham form figures of 11123.
1. Cole Harden2. Saphir Du Rheu3. Zarkandar
Pertemps Network Hurdle Final (2.05)
Usually a race for outsiders, last year it was won by the 9-2 favourite - but horses at 20-1, 33-1, and 33-1 did fill the places so the advice is to play it long and each-way again.
1. Call the Cops2. Unique De Cotte3. The Tourard Man
Ryanair Chase (2.40)
Nine of the last ten winners have been 6-1 or shorter in the betting, so concentrate on the market leaders, and particularly those with winning form at Cheltenham as nine of the last ten winners had already won at least once at the track. Hidden Cyclone, placed in both previous starts at Cheltenham, including when second in this last year, and Johns Spirit, a three-times Cheltenham winner, are each-way possibles.
1. Uxizandre2. Ma Filleule3. Don Cossack
2m5f handicap chase (4.40)
In the last seven years we’ve had winners at 66-1, 33-1, 25-1 and 50-1, so don’t be put off if the horse you fancy is not among the market leaders. Weight is quite an important factor as seven of the last eight winners have carried less than 11st. Trainer Venetia Williams has won this three times in the last eight years, and twice with rank outsiders, so small each-way investments on her runners might be a shrewd policy.
1. The Package2. Bless the Wings3. Buddy Bolero