Run over 2m 4 ½ furlongs the Paddy Power Gold Cup is the feature contest at the three-day Cheltenham Open Meeting, held each year in the middle of November (13th-15th Nov 2020).
The ‘Pond House’ Pipe stable are the leading yard with nine wins in the race, with Celestial Gold, Our Vic and Great Endeavour, who won the contest in 2011, their most-recent winners.
In 2017, the BetVictor Gold Cup was won by the Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Splash Of Ginge – a win that gave the yard their third success in the race since 2008 and their four overall. While last year (2019) the Kerry Lee-trained Happy Diva landed the honours under jockey Richard Patrick - she'll be looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Bradbury Star, who won the race in 1993 and 1994.
Here at TQ we take a look at the 2020 Paddy Power Gold Cup renewal from a stats angle – this year run on Saturday 14th November.
Recent Paddy Power Gold Cup Winners
2019 - Happy Diva (14/1)
2018 - Baron Alco (8/1)
2017 - Splash Of Ginge (25/1)
2016 - Taquin Du Seuill (8/1)
2015 – Annacotty (12/1)
2014 – Caid Du Berlais (10/1)
2013 – Johns Spirit (7/1)
2012 – Al Ferof (8/1)
2011 – Great Endeavour (8/1)
2010 – Little Josh (20/1)
2009 – Tranquil Sea (11/2 fav)
2008 – Imperial Commander (13/2)
2007 – L’Antartique (13/2)
2006 – Exotic Dancer (16/1)
2005 – Our Vic (9/2 fav)
2004 – Celestial Gold (12/1)
2003 – Fondmort (3/1 fav)
2002 – Cyfor Malta (16/1)
Paddy Power Gold Cup Betting Trends
18/18 – Aged 9 or younger (last winner aged in double-figures was in 1975)
18/18 – Had run at Cheltenham before
17/18 – Had won over at least 2m4f over fences before
17/18 – Won by a UK-based trainer
14/18 – Returned 14/1 or shorter in the betting
13/18 – Carried 11st or less
12/18 – Had won at Cheltenham before
12/18 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
12/18 – Had won just 2 or 3 times over fences before
12/18 – Finished in the top 4 last time out
11/18 – Trained by Pipe (3), Jonjo O’Neill (3), Nicholls (2) or Twiston-Davies (3)
9/18 – Won by a horse in the first 3 in the betting
9/18 – Aged 7 years-old
8/18 – Won this on their seasonal reappearance
8/18 – Placed favourites
5/18 – Won their last race
4/18 – Trained by the Pipe stable
4/18 – Ran at Cheltenham last time out
3/18 – Winning favourites
3/18 – Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies
3/18 – Trained by Jonjo O’Neill
3/18 – Ran at Carlisle last time out
2/18 – Ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies
1/18 – Irish-trained winners
The last winner aged in double-figures was in 1975
Paul Nicholls has saddled 10 placed horses (two winners, Al Ferof & Caid Du Berlais) from his last 39 runners
The average winning SP in the last 18 years is 10/1
TQ VERDICT: One of the big early season jumping highlights and, as always, we’ve got a super-competitive card heading to post. Last year the Kerry Lee-trained Happy Diva won the race and she’ll be looking to be become the first back-to-back winner since Bradbury Star (93 &94). She’s rated 8lbs higher this time though so will need to find more and actually hasn’t won a race (5 runs) since taking this 12 months ago. It’s a race that in recent years has been dominated by the O’Neill, Nicholls, Pipe and Twiston-Davies yards – between them, they’ve won 11 of the last 18. This year Pipe runs SIRUH DU LAC, Nicholls has BRELAN D’AS and SAINT SONNET, Twiston-Davies runs AL DANCER, while O’Neill has SKY PIRATE entered – they should all be respected. Looking at that lot the Nicholls main runner – Saint Sonnet – was a fair 7th in the Marsh Chase at the Festival, behind Samcro, in March and with just three runs over fences can be expected to have more to come. However, that lack of experience in a race like this would still be a negative for me. Al Dancer was a good winner last month at Newton Abbot so might be fitter than most, but he’s prone to the odd mistake and that would concern me, while even though the NTD yard often do well at this meeting, they have been a tad quiet in recent weeks too. Pipe’s Siruh Du Lac runs for the first time for the yard after coming from the Nick Williams team. He’s was running a big race at the Festival in the Brown Advisory and Merribelle Chase in March – a race he won in 2019 too, so the track is fine, while he’s gone well off a break in the past too. The Pipe yard are also in good order at the moment so if his jumping holds out has to enter the mix with 50% of the last 18 winners also aged 7! The winner of that Brown Advisory Chase was Simply The Betts and it’s no secret that the Harry Whittington yard think a lot of this 7 year-old. He’s 2-from-2 over fences at the course and has won 4 of this 5 runs over the biggest obstacles now. This horse is certainly a big player and should be bang there, but is up another 8lbs from his last run so would need to improve again. Slate House, Spiritofthegames and Fidux are three bigger-priced runners to note, but the main call here is MISTER FISHER. Yes, the Henderson yard have only won this race once (Fondmont, 2003), but I’m not reading too much into that. This 6 year-old was last seen running well to be fourth in the G1 Marsh Chase at the Festival in March – beaten only 4 ¼ lengths to Samcro – and that looks the best form on offer to me. He’s only had four runs over fences so that lack of experience is a bit of a worry, but at least he’s run here at Prestbury Park in two of those – winning one. With another summer on his back he should be a better horse and he also beat Al Dancer last January at Doncaster so can hopefully have the measure of that horse again. Nico de Boinville rides. Of the rest, I’ll have a small each-way interest in the Jonjo O’Neill runner – SKY PIRATE (e/w) – too, mainly due to the yard’s fair record in the race and the fact he gets in here with just 10-2 to carry. Yes, he’s not won a race over fences (9 runs) but has been second 5 times, but this will be the lightest racing weight he’s run with and that will, of course, help a lot.
There are a few loose ends to tie up with the turf flat season - but really, it’s full steam ahead with the jumpers now with the next six months or so mainly about National Hunt racing.
For most jump racing fans, the three-day Cheltenham November Meeting (13th-15th Nov) – is the first big meeting of the new season as a lot of old favourites return to the home of jump racing, plus we get a chance to see some early Festival clues ahead of the big one next March.
With three days of top action from Prestbury Park there are many decent races to take in but it’s the Paddy Power Gold Cup, which is run on the Saturday (14th Nov), that showcases the meeting.
In recent years, top stables like Nigel Twiston-Davies, Paul Nicholls, Jonjo O’Neill and the Pipe yard have done very well over the three days, while since 1996 those four powerful stables have won the Paddy Power Gold Cup am incredible 16 times between them – that’s a 67% strike-rate!
However, the last two renewals have seen two new yards join the hall of fame. The Gary Moore camp took the 2018 running with Baron Alco, then twelve months ago the Kerry Lee-trained Happy Diva landed the spoils – if lining up again in 2020, he’ll be looking to become the first ‘back-to-back’ winner since Bradbury Star, who won the race in 1993 and 1994.
What are the other main Paddy Power Gold Cup trends to looks for?
Course Knowledge - Firstly, having previous experience – including winning form, at the Cheltenham track, is a huge bonus. This is backed-up with ALL of the last 18 winners having run at Prestbury Park before, while 12 of those 18 (67%) had won a chase race at the track in the past too. Last year’s winner – Happy Diva – hadn’t won at the track before winning the race but had run well there three times. It’s also worth pointing out she went on to run an excellent second in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase at the Festival later that season.
UK-Based Yards Hold The Key – Okay, it’s a race that not many Irish runners have contested in recent years, so this stat might not hold a lot of weight – a massive 17 of the last 18 winners came from UK-based stables. The last Irish-trained winner was Tranquil Sea (2009) and that the only successful horse from the Emerald Isle in the last 29 runnings. As mentioned, the Pipe, Jonjo O’Neill, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Paul Nicholls stables have by far the best recent records – with 16 of the last 24 winners between them.
Age - Next up is to look at the age as there is a decent pattern building up here. Yes, two of the last four winners were aged 9 years-old, so we certainly can’t rule out this age group. However, the better overall record has been with horses aged 8 or younger – a massive 15 of the last 18 winners (83%) ticked this age stat! While if you want to drill into this age trend a bit more then it might pay to note that 6 or 7 year-olds have won 12 of the last 18 runnings (67%).
The final thing to note with the age is to look at the other end of the age scale - The last double-figure aged winner was in 1975!
Recent form – The last run of your fancy is another thing to look at, with 12 of the last 18 winners recorded a top four finish last time out. But those top four finishes have not always come in a recent race, as horses that are making their seasonal reappearances certainly can’t be ruled out. With a top prize on offer then it’s clear trainers can often work behind the scenes to get their horses fit and ready to rumble, while some just perform better off a break - 8 of the last 18 winners won this race off a lay-off.
The lightly-raced, or less exposed runners, have the better record too, with 67% of the last 18 winners having only had 2 or 3 previous wins over fences – again backing up the younger, less exposed chasers are the ones to focus on.
Weight - With the race being a handicap then weight carried is always worth considering. Of the last 18 renewals, 13 winners (72%) carried 11st or less and this was backed-up again in the last three years with the winners having 10st 6lbs, 10st 11lbs and 11st on their backs.
Betting Guide - The final trend to note is the betting market. It’s generally a race that punters are not too far off the mark. Therefore, any support for runners in the build-up should be respected and there is also an ante-post market to keep an eye on in the weeks before the race. 14 of the last 18 winners won at 14/1 or shorter in the betting, while even though the favourites have won just three of the last 18 (17%) we have seen 44% of the last 18 market leaders placed. With the winners tending to be priced 14/1 or less (last year’s winner returned 14/1) then it’s still the horses in the first four or five in the market that command the most respect.
Things will start to hot-up in the ante-post market a few weeks before this race and it’s often a contest that we see horses from previous renewals running in again. Like last year’s winner – Happy Diva, who was actually going well in the 2018 race too, before being brought down.
So, in summary. Horses aged 8 or younger, that have had previous track experience and are carrying 11st or less are certainly worthy of second glances. If any of those have run at the track before, finished in the top four last time out and also trained by Pipe, Nicholls, O’Neill and Twiston-Davies yard then you could be onto something!