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One of the most eagerly anticipated and hotly contested handicaps on the jumps racing calendar is undoubtedly the BetVictor Gold Cup (formerly known as the Paddy Power Gold Cup).

Run over a distance of two and a half miles on the old course at the hallowed Cheltenham track, this race brings together battle hardened handicappers with younger, unexposed horses in their second season over fences. The clash produces a fantastic spectacle, and is always one of the keenest betting heats of the season.

Ian Popham riding Annacotty to victory at Cheltenham.

Famous winners

Originally sponsored by Mackeson, the race has gone through various titles since its inaugural running in 1960, and has been sponsored by the likes of Murphy’s, Thomas Pink and Paddy Power. The recent announcement of BetVictor’s sponsorship came in the wake major racecourses refusing to deal with bookmakers who had yet to sign up to the controversial ABP scheme (authorised betting partners – essentially guaranteeing British racing a share of profits generated from online gambling).

Perhaps the best winner of the race in over fifty years of its history was the 2008 victor Imperial Commander. He stormed up the hill that day to a two length victory over the Queen’s horse Barber Shop, but maybe few could foresee his rise through the ranks over the next couple of seasons, culminating in a magnificent win in the 2010 Gold Cup at the Cheltenham festival. Back in second that day was none other than the mighty Denman, in one of the most thrilling Gold Cups in years.

Plenty of horses have won the race twice, most recently Cyfor Malta in 1998 and 2002. It was a race that was farmed by Martin Pipe in his heyday, and he leads the most successful trainers in the race with eight wins. Lady Cricket, Shooting Light and Cyfor Malta rattled off three consecutive wins for Pipe between 2000 and 2002. Martin Pipe’s son David has also won the race since his father retired, his Great Endeavour was successful in 2011 when ridden by Timmy Murphy.

BETVICTOR GOLD CUP TIPS

Course experience is almost always essential around Cheltenham, and the vast majority of winners of this race had run at least once around the Prestbury Park course. Young horses (by jumps standards) are definitely favoured by the trends, with six and seven year olds having a far superior record to all other age groups. As with many of the major handicaps, weight plays a big part in the outcome, with lighter weights being at an obvious advantage. That said, the classier nature of modern handicaps mean that the minimum rating required to take part has risen in recent times. This has led to an increase in horses with larger weights running well in the race, including Annacotty (who carried 11-00 in 2015) and Al Ferof (who carried 11-08 in 2012).

Irish trained runners generally do very well in Cheltenham, especially at the festival in March. In the BetVictor Gold Cup however, history is stacked against them. The Edward O’ Grady trained Tranquil Sea, who won the race in 2004, was bridging a massive gap back to the last Irish winner, Bright Highway in 1980.

That said, this race is often won by a fancied horse, and horses towards the front three in the betting almost always do well. The nature of these high class handicaps means that very few horses that are truly ‘under the radar’ qualify to run any more, meaning that the form almost always stands up. Above all else, class is required to win the BetVictor Gold Cup, and many of the horses who win it go on to bigger and better things in open company later in their careers.

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