How to Identify a Potential Cheltenham Gold Cup Winner

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious race of the year and it always attracts a stellar field packed full of superstars. All the leading trainers descend upon the famous racecourse to battle it out for glory, and it always results in a fascinating spectacle. It is also one of the biggest betting events of the year. Bookmakers offer ante post odds well in advance of the big race, and punters pore over the form in an effort to identify the winner. These are the key statistics that you should bear in mind before handing over your hard-earned cash to the bookies:


Eleven of the last 12 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners were between seven and nine years of age. The only exception was Long Run, a six-year-old from the Nicky Henderson stable who went off as the 7/2 favourite in 2011. That was widely considered as one of the greatest races ever witnessed at Prestbury Park, as he saw off the threat of experienced warriors Denman and Kauto Star to clinch a famous victory. However, the real sweet spot to aim for is seven to nine, as the last eight winners have come from that bracket. Older horses appear to struggle with the long, daunting trip: in 2019, the two oldest runners – 10-year-old Might Bite and 11-year-old veteran Thistlecrack – were both pulled up.


The temptation is always to back the favourite in the Gold Cup, as that horse arrives in terrific form. However, it is worth noting that only four out of the last 12 SP favourites have finished first in this famous race. The last to secure victory was Gordon Elliott’s Don Cossack in 2016. He went off as the 9/4 favourite and lived up to the hype by surging to victory ahead of Willie Mullins’ duo, Djakadam and Don Poli. Kauto Star in 2009, Long Run in 2011 and Bobs Worth in 2013 were the other favourites to win the Gold Cup in the past dozen years. However, seven of the past 12 winners came from the top three in the betting. The longest priced winners were Coneygree at 20/1 in 2015 and Al Boum Photo at 12/1 in 2019. Rank outsider Norton’s Coin defied odds of 100/1 to win it in in 1990, but we have not seen a freak result like that since then. You can learn more about odds at


Nine of the past 12 Gold Cup winners had run within the previous 77 days, suggesting that it is risky to back horses that could be rusty. Ten of the last 12 winners had won their previous race, so you might want to rule out any that come into it on a losing run. Al Boum Photo was not among the favourites in 2019, but he had still won his previous race – the Listed Savills Chase at Tramore in January.

Key Pointers

The King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day is a natural build-up race to the Gold Cup. The Triple Crown of Jumps Racing has always been the Betfair Chase, the King George and the Gold Cup, and several horses still go down that route. Three of the last 12 Gold Cup winners ran in the King George, and two of them won it. Another three of the last 12 winners ran in the Denman Chase at Newbury on their previous appearance, and all three won it. The winner of the Denman Chase could, therefore, make an interesting bet for Gold Cup glory.

Course Form

Every single one of the last 12 Cheltenham Gold Cup winners had at least one Cheltenham run under their belts. Half of them had won on the course, so beware of any runner that is making a Cheltenham debut and pay extra attention to any horse that has previously tasted success at Prestbury Park. Most winners of this race have displayed strong form over the course of the season. Coneygree had won all three races before triumphing in 2015, while Don Cossack had won three of four before his 2016 victory. Sizing John won two of three races before winning the Gold Cup in 2017, and the past two winners – Native River and Al Boum Photo – had only raced once during the season and both eased to victory. In the past 12 years, only 2010 winner Imperial Commander and 2014 champion Lord Windermere were winless for the season before clinching the Gold Cup.

Distance Form

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is an epic stamina test and you should be wary of any horses that are unproven over a long distance. Eleven of the last 12 winners had won a race in which the distance was at least 3 miles, standing them in good stead for the 3miles, 2 furlongs and 70 yards Gold Cup trip. Eight of the last 12 winners had triumphed at least twice over a distance of more than 3 miles, so look out for horses with the proven ability to win at that trip.


By the time the Cheltenham Gold Cup rolls around in March, the officials generally have a good idea of how strong each runner is. Three-quarters of the past 12 winners were rated 166 or higher and half of them were rated 170 or higher. However, it is worth noting that the past three winners were rated below 167: Sizing John was 164, Native River was 166 and Al Boum Photo was 164. The lowest-ranked winner of the past decade was Lord Windermere (152) and the highest was Long Run (179).

Grade 1 Victories

You should also consider ruling out any horses that have not displayed an ability to win at Grade 1. The past 12 victors had all won at least one Grade 1 race, and half of them had previously won at least two Grade 1 races. If a horse is bidding for its first-ever Grade 1 victory in the biggest race of the year, that should set alarm bells ringing. Seven of the past 12 Gold Cup winners had won at least two Grade 2 races, so that is another trend to bear in mind.

Season Form

Ten of the past 12 Gold Cup winners had been given at least two runs that season, although Native River and Al Boum Photo – the last two winners – were the exceptions. Eight of the last 12 winners had at least three season runs and 10 out of 12 had at least one win that season. Lord Windermere was the last horse to secure his first victory of the season at the Cheltenham Gold Cup, which would explain the long odds of 20/1 he was assigned.