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.