BetVictor Gold Cup

gold cup

The November Meeting is an exciting few days on the Cheltenham Racecourse, with most people in attendance dusting themselves off from the Flat Racing season and gearing up for the return of that National Hunt. There are a number of races over the course of the weekend that will get the blood flowing for those that enjoy a bit of Jump Racing, such as the Handicap Chase and the Novice’s Hurdle. There’s little question, though, that, as with the Cheltenham Festival itself, the Gold Cup is the race that most people are excited about watching. It’s the premier event of the weekend and it’s no exaggeration to suggest that the entire Cheltenham Open is built around the race.

As has been mentioned on other pages regarding the November Meeting, it is seen by many as the unofficial start of the Jump Racing season. It is somewhat fitting, of course, that Cheltenham Racecourse is where people head to get the National Hunt party started, considering that the Gold Cup in March is one of the biggest events of the season. It’s equally fitting, therefore, that this smaller and more family friendly meeting should have a Gold Cup of its own for people to get excited about. First run back in 1960 when Pat Taafe rode Fortria to victory for Tom Dreaper, it has enjoyed numerous sponsors over the decades since. It’s currently named after the bookmaker BetVictor, but in the old days it was known as the Mackeson Gold Cup before becoming the Murphy’s Gold Cup in 1996.

Race Facts

NameSponsorDistanceWinner / PurseGrade
Gold Cup BetVictor 2m, 4f, 78y £160,000 / £91,120 Grade 3

This is a National Hunt chase that is open to horses aged four-years-old and over. As with all of the races taking place over the course of the Cheltenham Open weekend, the Gold Cup is run on the Old Course at Cheltenham. It lasts for around two miles and four and a half furlongs. It’s a handicap race, meaning that each horse will carry a different amount of weight determined by the handicapper; better horses carry more weight and those horses judged to be ‘worse’ will carry less. Again, as is the case with the majority of races run at Cheltenham Racecourse, it’s run left-handed.

In 2017 the prize money for the Grade 3 BetVictor Gold Cup was £160,000. That’s the same amount as it was the year before, with the winner taking home £91,120 on both occasions. Tom Bellamy was the winning jockey, doing so for the first time in his career. Splash of Ginge was the winning horse, giving trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies his fourth win in the event

Race Trivia

In a decent amount of races around the country, including at Cheltenham Racecourse itself, four wins for a trainer would be enough to mean that they were the leader in their field in any given race. Not so with the Gold Cup during the meeting, with Martin Pipe owning the distinction of being the leading trainer thanks to his eight wins between 1987 and 2005. That includes back-to-back wins in both 2000 and 2001 and then again in 2004 and 2005.
When it comes to jockeys, several have managed more than one win. Pat Taaffe was the first ever winner in 1960 and achieved the same feat again two years later. Norman Williamson picked up two victories during the 1990s. Sam Twiston-Davies won it on the back of one of his dad’s horses in 2010 and then again on Paul Nicholls’s horse in 2014. Terry Biddlecombe is another jockey who has picked up two wins in this race, both on horses trained by Fred Rimell.
You would think that Richard Dunwoody’s three wins in 1986, 1991 and 1996 would be enough for him to be called the best jockey in the race, but Richard Linley and Timmy Murphy have also achieved hat-tricks.
Instead, the title of ‘Most Successful Jockey’ when it comes to the November Meeting’s version of the Gold Cup goes to Tony McCoy. He won it for the fist time in 1998 before racking up back-to-back victories in 2000 and 2001. All three of those wins came on Martin Pipe’s horses, with McCoy switching trainers ahead of the 2006 to Jonjo O’Neill’s Exotic Dancer. That win put him on four victories, one more than the closest competitors.
No horse has won the race more than twice. Fortria gave Pat Taafe his two wins, with Gay Trip following that up in 1969 and 1971 thanks to Terry Biddlecombe’s riding.
Only two horses have managed back-to-back wins of the Gold Cup. Half Free was the first to achieve it for trainer Fred Winter and jockey Richard Linley in 1984 and 1985, before Bradbury Star repeated the trick in 1993 and 1994 thanks to the training of Josh Gifford. Interestingly, Bradbury Star had two different jockeys for its two wins, starting with Declan Murphy before Philip Hide took over. The same is true for Cyfor Malta, who also has the biggest gap between wins. Tony McCoy managed the first of his four victories in 1998 and Barry Geraghty took over jockey duties four years later.

Gold Cup Day

racing at Cheltenham

The Saturday of the Cheltenham Open meeting is the day with the most interesting and exciting races for punters to get their teeth into. As you would expect for the race of the day that’s going to generate the most interest, it comes pretty much smack bang in the middle of proceedings. The Triumph Hurdle Trial is run first to whet the appetite before the Novices Chase ensures that everyone’s interest is well and truly piqued. Don’t be fooled by BetVictor being the sponsor of the next race, we’re not there yet. Instead it’s the Handicap Chase that comes third in the day.

The BetVictor Gold Cup gets underway at 2.25pm, being the fourth race of seven and putting it exactly in the middle of both the day and the weekend meeting as a whole. Two Handicap Hurdles come after it, before the day is seen out by the running of the Mares Standard Open Flat Race. By that time many of the fair weather punters will have made their way towards the bars or the exits, especially if the cold or the rain has decided to settle in for the afternoon. The weekend is, quite literally, centred around the Gold Cup, so don’t be surprised to see a number of your fellow racegoers get extremely excited for it when the horses come under starter’s orders.

CBO Rating 10/10

faller

It’s perhaps a touch surprising that a race that’s been run for nearly sixty years has only been won by the same horse on five occasions. What it does mean, though, is that you can consider it to be something of an open field every time it’s run.

Given that Tony McCoy is now retired (interestingly after running another race named the Gold Cup at Sandown in 2015) and Martin Pipe retired in 2006, you can’t really even look to jockeys or trainers to get a sense of who might pick up the spoils. Nigel Twiston-Davies and Jonjo O’Neill are probably your best bets on the trainers front, but this is a Gold Cup race that will be genuinely full of excitement and intrigue every time it’s run.