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Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup

Seven attributes required by contenders to win the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup

Cheltenham Racecourse photo by Kate TannCheltenham Racecourse photo by Kate Tann

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This year’s Gold Cup would appear to be all about Galopin Des Champs 6/4 after his win in the Irish Gold Cup at Leopardstown. 

He is the horse at the head of the Cheltenham Festival betting and Willie Mullin’s charge has raced twice at Cheltenham. His first attempt was in 2021 when contesting the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle which he won.

In the 2022 renewal of the Turners Novices' Chase (Grade 1) he was unfortunate to fall at the last when leading by 12 lengths.

But I think there is more to this race than meets the eye. Apart from the above the main contenders include: 

A Plus Tard 7/1, Bravemansgame 15/2, Ahoy Senor 12/1, Noble Yeats 7/1, Stattler 8/1, Minella Indo 20/1, Protektorat 14/1.

I’ll review 7 of the attributes required to win this prestigious race and then point up the contender’s relevant strengths.

Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup Attributes

1. Speed: To win the Gold Cup, a racehorse must be able to sustain a high level of speed for the duration of the race.

This means that the horse needs to have sufficient levels of stamina in order to last the 3m 2 1/2 furlong course, consisting of stiff steeplechase fences, water jumps and a steep hill to climb at the finish. 

Winners of the race often require their jockeys to drive them hard from the start and hope that the horse has enough left in the tank to prevail at the end. 

A horse with enough speed and determination to stay in the lead most of the way to the finish line will have the best chance of becoming a Gold Cup winner.

A good prep race is the Christmas horse racing's King George VI Chase

Cheltenham racecourseCheltenham racecourse

2. Stamina: The race requires a lot of stamina, as it is 3m 2 1/2 furlong long and consists of steeplechase fences and other obstacles.

Races over long distances such as the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup need horses with plenty of stamina in order to maintain their speed and continue despite the fatigue and a stiff uphill finish. 

Most racehorses also need to be trained to handle long distance races, to strengthen their endurance and so they can perform at their best throughout the duration of the race.

The stamina of the horse is essential in order to ensure its long-term integrity. Horses must stay strong and healthy throughout the race, as well as being able to maintain their speed.

3. Determination: The horse must possess an unyielding determination to push itself to the line and give its all for victory.

Furthermore, the determination of the horse will be seen in the determination of its jockey in driving the horse as well as possible, and in encouraging it to give its all in order for victory to be achieved.

It will be a concern for jockeys in this year's race that they will only be permitted to use the whip 7 times and any more above this level will trigger an automatic disqualification and a 14-day ban. This has already happened to 20 jockeys, including Lorcan Williams who will now miss the Festival.

4. Jumping ability: The horse must be skilled in jumping the type of steeplechase fences to be found at Cheltenham, so as to not be intimidated or hindered by them and it needs to jump accurately and safely at speed.

5. Brave: The horse must have no fear and be brave in its approach to the fences and other obstacles.6. Soundness: A sound horse is essential in order to endure the tough terrain and physical strain of the course.

The race can be arduous, with steeplechase fences, water hazards, and other obstacles which the horse must negotiate. Fear can lead to poor decision making, such as approaching the fences wrong or even running out which would lead to disqualification from the race. 

Therefore, it is essential for the horse to not have fear and approach these obstacles bravely and confidently, in order to have the best chance of victory. 

The tough nature of the race can be very hard on the horse's body if it is not in peak condition. If a horse is sound, meaning it has no musculoskeletal or other medical issues, then it is better equipped to handle the tough terrain and strain of the course. A sound horse will be able to negotiate the course safely at speed.


7. Experience: The horse must have extensive experience in similar jumps races and steeplechase racing in order to be a truly competitive contender for the Gold Cup.

Paul Nicholls champion trainerPaul Nicholls champion trainer

Attributes Comparison for the main contenders:

Galopin Des Champs 6/4 

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 130 

2. Not Won at dist 

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Usually Sound jumper but fell in last year’s Turners Novices' Chase

 5. Fearless 

6. Usually sound but pulled up at Limerick in 2020 

7. Experience with 12 rules races and 8 wins


A Plus Tard 7/1

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 171 

2. Won at dist 

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Sound jumper never fallen 

5. Fearless 

6. Usually sound but inexplicably pulled up last time in Betfair Chase 

7. Plenty of experience with 20 rules races and 8 wins


Bravemansgame 15/2

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 166 

2. Not Won at dist

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Sound jumper never fallen 

5. Fearless 

6. Usually sound but performed poorly last year in the Mildmay and had a wind op afterwards 

7. Plenty of experience with 15 rules races and 9 wins


Ahoy Senor 12/1

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 148 

2. Won the paddy Power in January at 3m ½ f 

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Sound jumper but unseated on a couple of occasions 

5. Fearless 

6. Usually sound 

7. Plenty of experience with 13 rules races and 6 wins


Noble Yeats 7/1

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 152 

2. Won Grand National at 4m 2 ½ f 

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Sound jumper never fallen 

5. Fearless 6. Usually sound but pulled up on two occasions 

7. Plenty of experience with 16 rules races and 6 wins


Stattler 8/1

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 148 

2. Won at dist at Cheltenham 

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Sound jumper never fallen 

5. Fearless 

6. Usually sound 

7. Some experience with 13 rules races and 5 wins


Minella Indo 20/1

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 160 

2. 2nd to A Plus Tard in this race last year 

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Has fallen in Ireland 

5. Fearless 

6. Usually sound but pulled up on 2 occasions 

7. Plenty of experience with 19 rules races and 7 wins


Protektorat 14/1

1. Racing Post Speed Rating 157 

2. 3rd to A Plus Tard in this race last year 

3. Finishes strongly 

4. Sound jumper never fallen 

5. Fearless 

6. Usually sound but pulled up on 1 occasion 

7. Plenty of experience with 20 rules races and 6 wins

Conclusion: By comparing the relevant data of each horse will help to establish the contender with the strongest credentials to win the Cheltenham Festival Gold Cup.

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