The first Cheltenham Gold Cup was run on the 12th March 1924 when the winner’s prize of £685 went to the five-year-old Red Splash and jockey Dick Rees. In it’s early days the race was overshadowed by the more prestigious National Hunt Chase and was dominated during the 1930’s by the outstanding chaser of that generation, Golden Miller, who won the contest a record five times from 1932 to 1936.
The race was run on the “ New Course “ for the first time in 1959, it’s present home, and produced one of the greatest encounters the sport has ever seen when the incomparable Arkle outspeeded the ‘ unbeatable ‘ Mill House in the first of his three victories in 1964. Almost forty years would go by before that feat would be repeated again courtesy of Best Mate’s successive wins in 2002 – 2003 and 2004. The most remarkable feat in the history of the race took place in 1983 when trainer Michael Dickinson sent out the first five horses home headed by Bregawn and Graham Bradley.
The last seven renewals has produced seven different winners and it must be long odds on that the trend will continue once again as, despite the fact that the victor’s in 2013 and 2014 (Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere) will both attempt to win the race for a second time, neither feature among the first six horses in the ante-post betting. At least half a dozen horses were in with a chance of victory 12 months ago jumping the final fence and it would be no surprise to see an equally competitive contest in what looks a wide-open contest.
1.Bobs Worth – Festival winner in 2011, 2012 and 2013 with seven length victory over Sir Des Champs in Gold Cup. Was sent off the 6-4 favourite 12 month’s ago on the back of Lexus Chase win at Leopardstown but after looking the possible winner at the last found little close home, wandering badly. No encouragement when trying to win back-to-back Lexus Chase’s over Christmas but record at Prestbury Park is so outstanding hard to rule out.
2.Boston Bob – Would probably have won the 2013 RSA but for falling at the last and impressive winner at both Aintree and Punchestown festivals last season. Possibly unsuited by soft ground in Ireland this season and not without a chance under ideal conditions if running here rather than shorter Ryanair Chase on Thursday.
3.Carlingford Lough – Sure to attract plenty of support as likely final Gold Cup ride for champion jockey Tony McCoy. Game winner of Irish Hennessy last time with several of these behind but could finish only sixth in last year’s RSA so unless the nine-year-old has improved significantly in the meantime current odds are more to do with connections than what the gelding has achieved so far.
4.Coneygree – Also entered in Wednesday’s RSA Chase but connections leaning towards the bigger prize. Outstanding novice form including when making all to beat more experienced rivals in Newbury’s Denman Chase but novices have poor Gold Cup record and unlikely to get his own way up front this time.
5.Djakadam – Good novice last season who was strongly fancied to win Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup on reappearance but appeared not to get the trip after travelling well. Easy winner of 3m 1f Thyestes Chase on next start under top weight and has been pleasing his trainer in lead up to Cheltenham but may be found out in what is sure to be a stamina-sapping contest.
6.Don Cossack – Favourite to take Thursday’s Ryanair Chase and an unlikely starter unless anything happens to the same owner’s Road To Riches before Wednesday’s final declaration stage. Shorter race looks the way to go and would be hard to fancy if taking his chance.
7.Holywell – Only started to show his true potential when faced with better ground last spring winning the extended 3m handicap off a mark of 145 at last year’s festival before going on to take a Grade 1 novices’ chase at Aintree. Once again slow to get going this season but if in the same form as 12 months ago a leading player.
8.Home Farm – Impossible to fancy and would been an even bigger shock than Norton Coin’s 100-1 victory in 1990 if this one came home in front for trainer Henry De Bromhead.
9.Houblon Des Obeaux – Has been in great form this season without getting his head in front. Runner up to leading fancy Many Clouds in Newbury’s Hennessy when conceding that horse 6lb and no disgrace in two subsequent starts behind the promising The Young Master (in receipt of 17lb) and top novice Coneygree. Any rain would help but could easily run a massive race at a huge price.
10.Lord Windermere – Defending champion who will not give up his crown without a fight but looked just an average Gold Cup winner last year and will need a career best performance to win again. Only a little encouragement in three starts this season.
11.Many Clouds – Just a good novice last season but unbeaten in three starts this campaign including a Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury before proving himself up to Gold Cup class by taking Cheltenham’s Betbright Cup in January. May not have stopped improving but seemed to get the run of the race last time and not certain to confirm the form with the runner up Smad Place, despite being 8lb better off.
12.On His Own – Short head runner up last year when looking a little unlucky
not to get the race in the steward’s room but the feeling is that the eleven-
year-old’s chance of Gold Cup has now disappeared after beating just two home in Irish Hennessy last time.
13.River Choice – French challenger whose main objective is to give his connections a good day out at Prestbury Park.
14.Road To Riches – Winner of the Galway Plate off a mark of 149 last July but showed much improved form to win Champion Chase at Down Royal in November with the likes of Rocky Creek, Boston Bob and Ma Filleule behind and followed that up by taking the Lexus Chase from On His Own, Sam Winner, Boston Bob and Carlingford Lough. Has the best form of the Irish contingent and hard to dismiss.
15.Sam Winner – Looked short of Gold Cup class as a novice but produced a great handicap performance to win under top weight at Cheltenham’s Open meeting and showed he is capable of stepping up in class when finishing an excellent third in Lexus. Possesses stamina in abundance and if getting into a scrap up the Cheltenham hill could well come out on top.
16.Silviniaco Conti – Easily the form horse of the race after comprehensive victories in Haydock’s Betfair Chase and the King George V1 Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day. Fourth behind Lord Windermere last year after failing to quicken in the closing stages and 0 from 3 at the course so whether current odds represent value is open to question.
17.Smad Place – Unlikely we have seen the best of Alan King’s grey over fences. Placed in two World Hurdle’s and found only O’Faolains Boy a neck too good in last year’s RSA and possibly needed his first run of the season when fifth in Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup. Creditable second to Many Clouds last time in receipt of 8lb but could improve enough to turn the tables on that horse and no surprise to see this lightly-raced chaser go close.
18.The Giant Bolster – A standing Gold Cup dish with form figures reading 2-4-3 in the race over the last three years. The ten-year-old seems to reserve his best for the race but another placed effort is probably the best connections can hope for on his fourth attempt.
Distance Course Going Progressive
Bobs Worth Yes Yes Yes No
Boston Bob Yes Yes Yes No
Carlingford Lough Yes No Yes Yes
Coneygree Yes Yes Yes Yes
Djakadam No No Yes Yes
Don Cossack No No Yes Yes
Holywell Yes Yes Yes Yes
Home Farm No No Yes No
Houblon Des Obeaux Yes No No Yes
Lord Windermere Yes Yes Yes No
Many Clouds Yes Yes Yes Yes
On His Own Yes Yes Yes No
River Choice No No No No
Road To Riches Yes Yes Yes Yes
Sam Winner Yes Yes Yes Yes
Silviniaco Conti Yes No Yes Yes
Smad Place Yes Yes Yes Yes
The Giant Bolster Yes Yes Yes No