2014 bet365 Gold Cup Preview, Trends, Tips
Sandown hosts the last hurrah of the UK National Hunt season, the bet365 Gold Cup, a three-and-three-quarter mile Grade 3 handicap chase. It's always a competitive race, with both quantity and quality on show, and the trick is often to sort the still firing wheat from the over-the-top chaff.
2014 bet365 Gold Cup Trends
There are some fair trends which readers might like to employ to whittle the field of twenty to a more manageable number. As ever, beware that in doing so one can leave the winner on the cutting room floor!
Age: Horses aged six to eleven have won this since 1997, though the place profile seems to favour younger horses. Specifically, 13 of the last 17 winners (76%) were aged six to nine, from 61% of the runners. While those aged six to eight claimed 32 of the 65 places (49%) from 37% of the runners.
Weight: Two years ago, the magnificant Tidal Bay was able to overcome the enormous burden of 11-12 - top weight - to win this race. And in 1996, Life Of A Lord shouldered 11-10 to the same end. In 1988, Desert Orchid himself lugged 11-11 to victory. But every other winner since 1982 has ported a relatively light weight of 11-05 or less. Indeed, only six of the 32 winners since 1982 has humped more than eleven stone.
Official Rating: Four winners since 1997 were rated 145 or higher, from 63 horses. That's a 6% win rate. Those rated lower accounted for thirteen of the seventeen renewals in that time, but from 238 runners, a win rate of 5%! So it is probably fair to say that there is no material ratings edge, and that weight carried is a greater obstacle to victory.
Betting: The bet365 Gold Cup doesn't appear to be a race in which to side with a rank outsider. Since 1997, the 90 horses outside of the top dozen in the betting have failed to win, and are responsible for just seven of the 65 available places (11%), from 30% of the runners. Winners have been scattered throughout the top twelve in the market, though, with the favourite having won just once, and likewise the second favourite.
Last run: Twelve of the last seventeen winners (71%) last ran at Cheltenham, Aintree or Ayr, from 67% of the runners. However, Aintree's five wins-for-last-time-out-runners' contribution comes from a whopping 38% of the entry.
So trends followers may like to side with a younger horse carrying eleven stone or less; from the top dozen in the betting; and which last ran at one of Britain's late season Festival meetings. That brings in Godsmejudge, Hadrian's Approach, Same Difference, and Roalco De Farges.
2014 bet365 Gold Cup Form Preview
The favourite is currently Same Difference, for the Twiston-Davies team. He was a winner at the Cheltenham Festival last year, and ran a gallant fifth this time around. That was the first piece of form he'd shown since running second in this race last year, and he should again go well off a seven pound lower mark. Assuming the going stays on the soft side of good, and no worse, he has a solid chance of going one better than a year ago, though the stable is in less than brilliant form right now.
Doctor Richard Newland is having a phenomenal season with his small string, including winning the Grand National with Pineau De Re. Ardkilly Witness has been in winning form too, and is effective on all ground conditions. He's unpenalized for a win last time in a novices' chase, though it's debatable how much further improvement he still has (he's already rated a pound higher than his top hurdle mark). Clearly, anything the Newland team runs has to be feared, but I wasn't hugely taken by that last day win, and nor it seems was the official handicapper.
Burton Port has been a deeply frustrating horse to follow, and his unseat at only the second fence in the National typified his disdain for punters since winning the Mildmay Novices' Chase of 2010. Despite myself, I can't ignore him as he has a robust profile for a race like this. He's probably optimally suited by good to soft; he wants a trip; he's got bags of class; and he's been placed on both runs at Sandown.
Oh, and he's the small matter of eleven pounds lower than that last winning rating, and gets to dance through this race with but 10-09 on his back, most of which is made up by a certain AP McCoy. Yes, I'll be going to the Burton Port well once more here.
Roalco De Farges has been almost as expensive to follow as BP on the big days. A hold up horse, he was never likely to be suited by the front-runners' dominion of a Scottish National, but plenty of closers get involved in Sandown Gold Cup Chases. If he didn't leave his race at Ayr, he can get stick his nose in at the business end without being obviously well handicapped.
A similar comment applies to Godsmejudge, first and second in the last two Scottish Nationals. He's had a light, virus-ridden campaign, and it was easily his best effort of the year when chasing home Al Co at Ayr. If he's not cream crackered from those exertions a fortnight ago, he's had just the four runs this term, and gets to race off the same peg as the last day.
Bury Parade and Spring Heeled both seem to have plenty of weight, the former especially. He's got 11-10 here, and is no Tidal Bay. Nevertheless, he is progressive and ran a fine race last time when second in the Betbright Chase at Kempton. He looked unlucky there, and has plenty of scope to improve in future, but weight stops trains, as the cliché-peddlers will readily attest (whilst also spluttering weight-related stats in the manner of this cliché-peddling scribe!)
Spring Heeled has a more realistic opportunity off 11-03, and again the ground looks optimal at good to soft. He is up nine pounds for his Cheltenham win, and has the heavy end of a stone weight turnaround with Same Difference. As a young progressive type he could narrow that gap, but he may have to settle for a place.
Hadrian's Approach is beginning to look like a 'weak finisher' (apostrophes used to imply, without explicitly stating, something else), and I'd not be inclined to wager him off just a pound lower than when well beaten in this last year. Nothing much has happened this term to show he's ready to win a race like this.
Of the rest, Poungach catches (or gach'es?) my eye. He took a big step up in trip and ran a fair second behind an upwardly mobile type when conceding the best part of two stone in soft ground last time. He's certainly bred for a trip, and is six pounds below his last winning rating. At 20/1 with the sponsors, who are paying five places, and having won his only previous race at Sandown - a hyper-competitive Class 2 19-runner handicap hurdle - he is well worth an each way play.
2014 bet365 Gold Cup Tips
As ever, this is a wide open betting heat where form has to be considered alongside well-being after a long hard season for many. Two that have had lighter campaigns than most and might still have more to offer are Same Difference and Poungach. Both have solid form at the track, both look well-handicapped, and both are at least fairly well suited by conditions.
At the prices, I favour Poungach (20/1, versus 8/1 Same Difference). And I'll lob in my old mate - the sort of mate whose round it never is, and who is often asking to borrow a tenner (on a non-returnable basis) - Burton Port. He's got it all, and if he puts it together, he'll win. Simples. If. If. If...
Best value each way play:
Poungach 20/1 Best Odds Guaranteed, FIVE places 1/4 the odds bet365
Same Difference 9/1 Betbright Money back if 2nd; risk free £20 bet for new customers
Best handicapped horse in the race:
Burton Port 10/1 Best Odds Guaranteed, FIVE places 1/4 the odds bet365