Cheltenham Gold Cup Preview

February 27th, 2016

“Andy also indicated that he may not reach a position of clarity until all of the pieces of the form jigsaw puzzle are joined together in late February.”

Well here we are in the latter part of the month and in our post on NRNB, the comment above sums up the current landscape for the Chetenham festival.

With notable absences from Faugheen, Killultagh Vic, Artic Fire and with Dodging Bullets, Djakadam, and Up For Review having questions to answer after their prep races, the ripples in the anti-post betting markets will probably ebb and flow right up to a few days before the festival.

However in this blog post we will use Proform and information from our Cheltenham Service to preview the declared runners for the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Race Overview

When using the Proform software there will be many occasions when you will need to “profile” results for a particular race to get a feel for the type of horse that has performed well in the past and given that the Gold Cup has plenty of historical data to draw from, let’s first review the significant race trends and stats for the race.


  • Irish bred horses, 14 from 18 renewals, 35% better than statistical expectations
  • First 3 in the betting, 14 from 18 renewals, 23% better than statistical expectations.
  • Ran Prominently in recent run, 11 from 18 renewals, 15% better than statistical expectations
  • 16 from the last 18 winners were aged either 7,8 or 9
  • 15 from the last 18 winners ran in either a grade 1 or grade 2 race last time out
  • 10 from the last 18 winners won their previous race.


  • Horses Aged 10+, 1 winner from 78 runners, 75% below expectations
  • Out of the first 2 two finishing positions last time out, 4 winners from 123 runners
  • GB bred horses 1 winner from 43 runners, 35% below normal

Given the strong trends toward horses at the head of the market and horses from a limited subset in respect to age, our initial shortlist consists of the following runners.

Don Cossack, Smad Place, Don Poli, Djakadam

Notiable mentions: Road to Riches, Cue Card


Guide to Each Runner

With reference to the shortlisted runners above, here are Andy Gibson’s (Professional Punter and Racing Analyst) comments and observations of their last run

Don Cassack: [14th January 2016 ] Thurles - In the Kinloch Brae Chase he came off the bridle from the fourth last fence and was administered a sharp reminder after the next fence. He did come home well clear ultimately even though he beat very little as the runner up will clearly be busier on another day.

Smad Place: [30th January 2016] Cheltenham - The front two horses jumped beautifully and drew miles clear of the rest of the field. Smad Place ultimately stormed clear of his only rival up the run in but he probably broke Many Clouds resilience in between the final two fences as he was two seconds quicker in between those two markers compared with Tenor Nivernais.

He matched the final circuit time of that Venetia Williams runner which suggests this was a strongly run race given they had already travelled significantly further than those in the handicap. After this performance it now seems even more likely that it is the change of tactics along with the epiglottis operation that has enabled Smad Place to show such improvement this season. This supposition is substantiated by the fact that his one disappointing finish since the operation was in the King George which is the only time this season that he has been held up off the pace.

Don Poli: [28th December 2015] Leopardstown - I was rather hoping that he would get beaten here and as a result drifted to 8/1 or bigger for the Gold Cup; after all, whatever happened today on this heavy ground in this small field chase could not alter the evidence of his suitability to racing round Cheltenham in March. Anyway, win he did albeit in circumstances that did not add to his reputation

Djakadam: [30th January 2016] Cheltenham - He will still be in the first three or four in the betting on Gold Cup day despite this now being two falls from three attempts round Cheltenham. He did jump the first nine fences especially well; however, he had his ground today which might well not be the case in March.

Cue Card: [26th December 2015] Kempton - He won this through stamina rather than speed as the long-time leader tired badly on the run in. He might have won a shade cosily on the line with a better jump at the last fence. The pace of this race was many seconds quicker compared with the Feltham from the first fence until entering the home straight; understandably, Tea For Two was then two seconds quicker than Cue Card from the third last until the final flight.

The time comparisons substantiate the supposition that Vautour went very fast before gradually tiring up the home straight; moreover, this was how it looked to the eye. It is still a long way to go to stay up the hill in a Gold Cup compared to the short run in from the last in a King George; nevertheless, this was a step in the right direction and offers more than a little hope that he can be competitive in March.

Road to Riches: [6th February 2016] Leopardstown - He was surely ridden too close to an overly aggressive pace to give him his best chance of lasting home. All in all I would mark him up on his finishing effort given the way the race unfolded.

The other two pace setters finished a long way behind him and the winner came from well off the pace. Road To Riches was slowing down substantially from the approach to the last which made it appear as if the winner was quickening more than he was. On the negative side this was his first run in 12 weeks and he did endure a particularly hard race; consequently, he is no certainty to recover from it in time for the festival.

The comments above are an edited version from Andy's personal race notes with key remarks removed. 



Trainer Willie Mullins holds the strong suit in this race with Djakadam heading the market. 

With Don Cossack not far behind, and given the odds of Don Poli with Cue Card sandwiched in between, the market has come to the conclusion that none of the runners are absolute Cheltenham banker material.

If we were to eliminate one runners from consideration (a dangerous prospect), at the age of 10 Cue Card has the weight of statistical expectation against him.

Of the other runners, cases can be made from both positive and negative perspectives which makes the race even more intriguing.

  1. Don Poli
  2. Don Cassack
  3. Cue Card


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