Cheltenham Gold Cup tips: how to find the winner of the big race
The Gold Cup is one of the greatest races in the calendar. It may not match up to the Grand National in popularity, but as a level-weights race it is one step closer to the purists' ideal. The race actually started as a trial for Aintree, but these days the very best stayers run at Cheltenham and leave the National to the handicappers.
Many racing fans got into the sport by watching the Gold Cup and, let's be honest, many of those by backing the winner. How do you find the winner of the race?
The best horse sometimes, but not always, wins the Gold Cup. In nearly 100 years of the race, no winner has ever failed to stay. In particular contrast to the major midwinter staying chase, the King George VI, the Gold Cup puts a firm emphasis on stamina.
Native River outstayed Might Bite in a superb battle last year, despite the latter probably having marginally the greater raw ability. Finding a horse with form beyond 3m is highly desirable.
Of course, while the very best horse does not always win the Gold Cup, an extraordinary level of ability is a prerequisite. This is elite sport.
Winning the top Grade 1 races is a solid qualitative measure of ability, but ratings are better because they take the opposition into account by definition. Native River has the highest Racing Post Rating (RPR) in this year's field, as might be expected, but he has four rivals within 4lb of his rating so it can't be said that any horse stands out in this regard this year, just that it is a mightily competitive renewal.
Cheltenham has stiff fences and plenty of undulations, both of which make for a stern test of a horse's jumping. In particular, the third-last fence, which is taken on a downhill run, has ended more than a few hopes down the years.
Few horses go through their career without mishap, even Kauto Star and Desert Orchid fell, but only one of the last ten Gold Cup winners had fallen or unseated their rider that season. That was Don Cossack, who fell two out when coming to win the King George.
There is no magic formula to cracking the Gold Cup – if there were, most of us would enjoy it a lot less. It is a unique race, different from others like it in that it places more emphasis on jumping and stamina.
The greatest thrill of all, shy of riding the winner, is to find it yourself, guided by the clues above. But if it's a tip you're after, go for the strong-staying, Grade 1-winning, fluent-jumping Presenting Percy.
Get exclusive insight from the track and live tipping with Raceday Live - our up-to-the-minute service on racingpost.com and the Racing Post mobile app