The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a Grade 1 National Hunt steeplechase for horses aged five and over. The weight restrictions are 11st 8lb for five-year-olds, and 11st 10lb for horses aged six or over; there is an allowance of 7lb for mares.
The number of participants ranges from fewer than 10 to more than 20. It’s acknowledged as the most important non-handicap National Hunt event.
The length of the course is 3 miles, 2½ furlongs (5,331 metres) and it has 22 fences, including a challenging downhill jump. The course has a long run-in stretch.
The purse for this race is a whopping £575,000, with the winner taking home £327,326.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup’s first ever race was run in 1819 as a 3-mile flat race at Cleeve Hill, not far from today’s location. The prize fund was 100 guineas.
In 1924, the first jumps were added to the race, which moved to what’s now the Old Course at Cheltenham. In the early days, the Cheltenham Gold Cup didn’t have quite the prestige that it does today; people tended to think of it as a trial for bigger-name races. In 1959 the race moved to the venue’s New Course, and a new era of the Gold Cup began.
Sponsorship didn’t occur until 1975, when Piper Champagne put its name to the race. The Tote (now known as totesport) took over in 1980, but Betfred bought The Tote in 2011 and so took over as sponsors.
In 2015, various rules came into force that limited bookie sponsorship, and Betfred lost out to Timico, who was responsible for raising the prize fund to £575,000 in 2016.
The racehorse Arkle helped make Pat Taaffe the most successful Gold Cup jockey, joining him for three of Taaffe’s four wins (1964-66), while the last came on the back of Fort Leney in 1968.
Leading trainer Tom Dreaper also has Arkle to thank for three of his record five victories, with the other two coming from Prince Regent (1946), and the last from Fort Leney (1968).
Michael Dickinson gives Dreaper a run for his money in terms of the most remarkable achievement in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In 1983, the top five finishing horses were all his – a feat which has never yet been equaled.
Golden Miller’s owner, Dorothy Paget, trumps them all, with seven Cheltenham Gold Cup wins under her belt. She won five times with Golden Miller in the 1930s, along with Roman Hackle in 1940, and Mont Tremblant in 1952.
Race trends and statistics
- Seven winners since 2002 have been the favourite
- However, the winning horse with the longest odds was 1990’s Norton’s Coin, who was priced at 100/1
- Only one winner since 1964 has been under the age of seven
- …and no horse older than 10 has won since 1969
- Arkle is the shortest-priced horse to have won the Gold Cup, priced at 10/1 in 1966.
The horse most likely to succeed in the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the experienced and high-ranking chaser – although the 2015 victory was amazingly taken by a novice called Coneygree, who had only ever started three fence races.
Now’s not the time to take big risks with the odds – the favourites tend to win this race. The trends to watch are age and form.