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By Benjamin Leo
11th March 2016 at 9:42am

The fun and frolics of the Cheltenham Festival is pretty much concluded by Friday’s prestigious Gold Cup.

It’s a race that’s birthed a plethora of legends over the years including the likes of the great Arkle, who won three on the bounce from 1964, five-time winner Golden Miller and dual champion Kauto Star. More than £320,000 is up for grabs to winning connections, making it the most lucrative race of the festival meeting.

Bold novice Coneygree surprised the nation last year when storming home for trainer Mark Bradstock and jockey Nico de Boinville. And with more than three miles to tackle and a host of fences to jump at breakneck speeds, the race has proved beyond some of National Hunt racing’s great exports in recent years – most notably SILVINIACO CONTI. Paul Nicholls’ charge is a multiple winner of the Betfair Chase at Haydock and King George at Kempton but still hasn’t ever managed to win a Gold Cup – which goes to show that winning the grand prize truly is the achievement of a lifetime.

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The last 54 winners were aged 10 or younger

It’s a damning statistic that pays tribute to the ferocity of the challenge ahead. Older horses, it seems, simply cannot hack the Gold Cup. Cool Dawn was the last horse aged in double figures (10) to win the coveted prize but that was back in 1998. What a Myth was 12 when winning in 1969. Of the horses supplemented in this year’s race, 12-year-old ON HIS OWN, 11-year-old THE GIANT BOLSTER and 11-year-old BOSTON BOB are the only three horses aged over 10.

13 of the last 15 winners were rated 166+

Of this year’s entries there are a handful of horses rated 166 or over. Unsurprisingly they’re all market principals and include the likes of CUE CARD, DJAKADAM, DON COSSACK, DON POLI, MANY CLOUDS, ROAD TO RICHES, SMAD PLACE and VAUTOUR.
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14 of the last 16 winners ran in the King George VI or the Lexus Chase

A crack at either the King George or Lexus seems to be an integral component to winning the Gold Cup. Starting with the former, CUE CARD ran out winner at Kempton in December with VAUTOUR a head behind in second. SMAD PLACE finished fourth while IRISH CAVALIER was fifth. DON COSSACK fell when making progress two out. As for the Lexus at Leopardstown on December 28, DON POLI ran out the odds-on winner on December 28 with ON HIS OWN back in fourth and SIR DES CHAMPS and CARLINGFORD LOUGH in behind. Stats suggest the winner of this year’s Gold Cup could come from any of the names just mentioned.

13 of the last 15 winners finished in the first two last time out

Season momentum seems to play an important role in Gold Cup success, which is why the majority of winners from the last 15 years had finished in the top two placings the last time they ran prior to their GC run. Horses that can be dismissed from this year’s Gold Cup considerations, based on the above trend, are BALLYCASEY, CHAMPAGNE WEST, DJAKADAM, GILGAMBOA, HOLYWELL, IRISH CAVALIER, O’FAOLAINS BOY, SIR DES CHAMPS and  VALSEUR LIDO.

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