Staged at Sandown racecourse the Imperial Cup in a hurdle race run over 2m 1/2f. Run just days before the start of the Cheltenham Festival the contest always takes has an added interest for punters and trainers as traditionally the race sponsors – this year Matchbook – put up an extra £50,000 should the winner go onto land any festival race the following week.
In recent years that incentive has seen powerful stables like Henderson and Hobbs target the race, but it’s the Pipe yard that hold the best recent record – winning the race four times in the last 14 years and 9 times in all.
The last horses to win the Imperial Cup and then go onto land a Festival race the following week are Olympian (1993), Blowing Wind (1998) and Gaspara (2007). While the 2016 – Flying Angel – only just failed to land the bonus after running second in the Martin Pipe Conditionals race. The last two winners – London Prize and Mr Antolini – didn’t go onto run at the Cheltenham Festival.
Here at TQ we take a look back at recent winners and give you all the key stats to take into the 2019 renewal – this year run on Saturday 9th March.
Recent Imperial Cup Winners
2018 – MR ANTOLINI (20/1)
2017 – LONDON PRIZE (10/1)
2016 – FLYING ANGEL (9/1)
2015 – EBONY EXPRESS (33/1)
2014 – BALTIMORE ROCK (7/1)
2013 – FIRST AVENUE (20/1)
2012 – PAINTBALL (20/1)
2011 – ALARAZI (10/1)
2010 – QASPAL (11/4 fav)
2009 – DAVE’S DREAM (12/1)
2008 – ASHKAZAR (10/3 fav)
2007 – GASPARA (11/4 fav)
2006 – VICTRAM (8/1)
2005 – MEDISON (9/2 fav)
2004 – SCORNED (14/1)
2003 – KORELO (9/4 fav)
Imperial Cup Betting Trends and Stats
16/16 – Had won no more than twice over hurdles before
15/16 – Had won between 1-2 times over hurdles before
15/16 – Had raced within the last 6 weeks
14/16 – Carried 10-13 or less
13/16 – Rated 124 or higher
12/16 – Aged 6 or younger
11/16 – Carried 10-7 or less
10/16 – Winners that went onto run at the Cheltenham Festival (1 winner, Gaspara – Fred Winter)
10/16 – Had won over at least 2m1f (hurdles) before
10/16 – Finished in the top two last time out
9/16 – Winning distance – 3 ½ lengths or more
8/16 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
7/16 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
6/16 – Raced at either Cheltenham (2), Sandown (2) or Ascot (2) last time out
6/16 – Won last time out
5/16 – Winning favourites
5/16 – French bred
5/16 – Had raced at Sandown (hurdles) before – 2 had won there before
5/16 – Won by the Pipe stable (have won it 9 times in all)
1/16 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
The average winning SP in the last 16 years is 11/1
The Nicky Henderson-trained Call Me Lord heads the weights with 11st-12lbs to carry but with this 160-rated runner in the race that means the others will ALL race with 10st 12lbs or less. He’s a proven course and distance winner and has been touted at a Champion Hurdle horse in recent seasons – he’s not quite hit those heights yet, but this 6 year-old is still very much the class-act in the race and the one to beat. Having said that, it won’t be easy having to lump that big weight round – the last horse to win the Imperial Cup with that sort of weight was Blowing Wind, who won with 11st 10lbs in 1998. While since 1947, only one winner has carried 11st 12lbs or more (Lanzarote, 1973, 12st 4lbs). Call Me Lord is entered in both the County Hurdle and the Coral Cup next week. Henderson also has the improving Dream Du Grand Val in the race and with this 6 year-old getting 21lbs off it’s stablemate then this will be a huge bonus.
Nicholls is still looking for his first win in the race and in Malaya he’s got a live chance of breaking his duck. This mare gets in with just 10st 2lbs in weight and has finished in the top two in 8 of her 12 hurdles starts. She ticks a lot of the main stats but does fall down on having won too many times (4) and also not being placed in the top two last time out. She’s entered in the County Hurdle next week.
EXTRA MAG (e/w) might be the one worth chancing though. This 5 year-old hails from the Pipe yard, that we’ve already mentioned have a cracking record in this race. He’s lightly-raced with only four career runs so there should be more to come, while this is also his first run in a handicap. He gets in with a low weight (10st) and has gone well in a variety of different ground types. With entries in the Country Hurdle and Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Hurdle next week at Cheltenham, then should he win here then the bonus could be on again for the Pipe camp.
Of the rest, MONSIEUR LECOQ has impressed this season and heads here on a three-timer, so a saver on him is advised too. He’s up 12lbs for his last win here over course and distance but some of that is offset with the jockey’s 7lb claim. He’s been freshened-up with a few months off but won well enough last time (9 lengths) to suggest there is more to come – any rain though would certainly help his chance. Benny’s Bridge and First Flow are others that are sure to be popular.