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 (12th-14th Nov 2021).
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 Paddy Power 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.
12 months ago, in 2020, we saw the Evan Williams-trained Coole Cody win the race and if lining up again in 2021 - he’ll be looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Bradbury Star, who won the race in 1993 and 1994.
We take a look at the 2021 Paddy Power Gold Cup renewal from a stats angle – this year run on Saturday 13th November.
2020 - Coole Cody (10/1)
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)
19/19 – Had run at Cheltenham before
18/19 – Had won over at least 2m4f over fences before
18/19 – Won by a UK-based trainer
15/19 – Returned 14/1 or shorter in the betting
14/19 – Carried 11st or less
13/19 – Had won at Cheltenham before
13/19 – Finished in the top 4 last time out
12/19 – Aged 6 or 7 years-old
12/19 – Had won just 2 or 3 times over fences before
11/19 – Trained by Pipe (3), Jonjo O’Neill (3), Nicholls (2) or Twiston-Davies (3)
9/19 – Won by a horse in the first 3 in the betting
9/19 – Aged 7 years-old
9/19 – Placed favourites
8/19 – Won this on their seasonal reappearance
5/19 – Won their last race
5/19 – Ran at Cheltenham last time out
4/19 – Trained by the Pipe stable
3/19 – Winning favourites
3/19 – Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies
3/19 – Trained by Jonjo O’Neill
3/19 – Ran at Carlisle last time out
2/19 – Ridden by Sam Twiston-Davies
1/19 – 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 41 runners
The average winning SP in the last 19 years is 10.5/1
Track Experience - Having previous experience – including winning form at the Cheltenham track, is a big plus. This is supported with ALL of the last 19 winners having run at Prestbury Park in the past, while 13 of those 19 (68%) had won a race at the track before too. Last year’s winner – Coole Cody – had run a solid second at the track the previous month and was a past winner over hurdles at the course too. He also went onto finish a fine fourth in the Paddy Power Plate at the Cheltenham Festival last March, so this race is certainly worth looking back on as the season moves on.
UK-Based Stables Have The Edge – Okay, it’s a race that not many Irish runners have contested in recent years - last year we didn’t have any travellers from the Emerald Isle. Therefore, this might not hold a lot of weight once the final decs come out, but it’s still something to consider – a massive 18 of the last 19 winners came from UK-based stables. The last Irish-trained winner was Tranquil Sea (2009) and that the only successful horse from Ireland in the last 30 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 25 winners between them.
Age - Next up is to look at the age as there is a decent pattern building up here. Yes, three of the last five winners were aged 9 years-old, so we certainly can’t rule out this age group. That said, the better overall record has been with horses aged 8 or younger – a massive 15 of the last 19 winners (79%) ticked this age stat! While if you want to take this trend a bit further it could pay to note that 6 or 7 year-olds have won 12 of the last 19 runnings (63%).
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!
Current Form – Recent runs are certainly worth looking at too. with 13 of the last 19 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 - 8 of the last 19 winners took this first time out.
The lightly-raced, or less exposed runners, also have the better record, with 63% of the last 19 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 Carried - With the race being a handicap then weight carried is always worth considering. Of the last 19 renewals, 14 winners (74%) carried 11st or less and this was backed-up again in the last four years with the winners having 10st 5lbs, 10st 6lbs, 10st 11lbs and 11st on their backs.
Betting - The final trend to note is the betting market. It’s generally a race that punters are not too far off the mark in. 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.
Last year’s winner returned at 10/1 and was the fifth shortest-priced horse in the race. 15 of the last 19 winners won at 14/1 or shorter in the betting, while even though the favourites have won just three of the last 19 (16%) we have seen 47% of the last 19 market leaders placed. With the winners tending to be priced 14/1 or shorter, then it’s still the horses in the first four or five in the market that command the most interest.
Things will start to ramp-up several notches 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. For example, the 2019 winner - Happy Diva Like last year’s winner – Coole Cody - has run in the last three renewals.
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’d be foolish not to stand up and take note.
SUREWIN VERDICT: Another top renewal of this competitive handicap. Last year’s winner - Coole Cody - will be looking to become the first back-to-back winner since Bradbury Star (1993-94), but being a 10 year-old now looks against him - the last winner aged in double-figures was in 1975! 14 of the last 19 winners also carried 11st or less, so that might be seen as a negative for the top 11 on the card - Simply The Betts, Protektorat, Aso, Paint The Dream, Al Dancer, Lalor, Caribean Boy, Midnight Shadow, Spiritofthegames, Manofthemountain and Zanza. Of that lot, Spiritofthegames was runner up 12 months ago and Al Dancer managed third, so they have pedigree in the race. Aso was 7th too and Simply The Betts, who is now trained by Paul Nicholls, was back in 6th. Simply The Betts does, however, return this time on a 3lb lower mark and have also had a wind op since that last run. Along with Protektorat, they are the class acts in the race and will certainly have their supporters, but you can’t help feeling with 11-12 in weight this will make life a lot harder. Lalor is another horse Nicholls has acquired over the summer and also has his first run after a wind op. He’s useful on his day and Nicholls is the right man to try and recapture his form, but I’d like to see it on the track first. The already mentioned Coole Cody is 4lbs higher this time but returned here last month to run well (2nd) and should be spot on for his defence. Zanza is interesting too - he ran well in the Haldon Gold Cup last month (3rd) and is 4lbs lower this time - the niggle with him is that he’s run four times at the track and been unplaced each time. The three I like though are SPIRITOFTHEGAMES (e/w), GALAHAD QUEST and NIETZSCHE. The former was a close second in the race last year and is 4lbs lower this time. He’ll be fitter for a return run (4th of 10) at Newbury earlier this month and even though he’s yet to win here at the track, has run many solid races. Galahad Quest is a course winner and with just 10-7 to carry has a light weight. This Nick Williams runner was a fair third at Wetherby (Listed) last month and even though his lack of runs over fences (4) is a slight worry, this also means he should be open to a lot more improvement then most of these. Finally, the 2018 Greatwood Hurdle winner, Nietzsche has been well supported all week and with just 10-5 to carry it’s easy to see why. He loves the track and having got a bit keen in the Ultima Chase here over 3m 1f at the Festival will enjoy this shorter trip. His record over fences is not too shabby either - 12 runs and has been in the top three 9 times (3 wins). A recent run on the flat at Catterick would also have blow away the cobwebs.