Last year’s race
- Winner: Road To Respect
- Jockey: B J Cooper
- Trainer: N Meade
- Owner: Gigginstown House Stud
- Age: 6 Weight: 10st 13lb
- Starting Price: 14/1
- Season Form Figures: 14322
- Previous Best: 3rd - Racing Post Novice Chase (Grade 1), Leopardstown (Dec 2016)
With as many as 14 winners sent off at 20/1+ over the last 28 years, this race has very much gone the way of the bookmakers.
In the last 31 years only three winners were successful off an official rating of 143+ though it should be pointed out that the 1-2-3 last season ran off 145-146 and the previous year witnessed a 1-2-3 running off 142, 149 and 150 so we have to adapt to the changing face of the race. I do feel quite safe at drawing the line at 150+ as a total of 40 such horses since 1990 have chanced their luck without success with six placing. The last winner officially rated 150+ was 32 years ago. For those who prefer to concentrate on weight-carried patterns rather than official ratings, only two of the last 22 winners carried over 11st.
The Pipe family have struck seven times in total - four wins for Martin and three for David. David Pipe’s three wins have been in the last eight years and he has saddled the second and third in the last three years. Venetia Williams has also trained three fairly recent winners and had the 1-2 in 2009 plus the 33/1 runner-up two years ago on its seasonal debut so, given her overall record of three winners and six other placed horses from 21 runners for a race as competitive as this, it is fair to say that she targets this prize. In short, seriously respect David Pipe and Venetia Williams.
French-breds have been successful on seven occasions going back to 1999 which is pretty good as they are usually outnumbered in a region of around 3:1.
With four Plate winners during his long career, Nicky Henderson’s contenders are also well worth a second look. This has not been Paul Nicholls’s race though with just three of his 28 runners hitting the frame. In fairness, this isn’t a race that the Irish go after in numbers and we had to back to Doubleuagain in 1982 to locate their last winner until up popped Empire Of Dirt and Road to Respect in the Gigginstown colours in the last two seasons.
French-breds have been successful on seven occasions going back to 1999 which is pretty good as they are usually outnumbered in a region of around 3:1. It is worth noting that French-bred horses have recorded eight runner-up positions on the 11 occasions they have missed out since 1999. So, combine their record of winners and runner-up and it’s mighty good.
Many will view the BetVictor Gold Cup as being the key guide being the most prestigious handicap chase run during the season over a very similar distance and also taking place at Cheltenham (albeit on different courses) and they would have been right four years ago as the winner, second and fourth all took part in the domestic season’s first major handicap chase four months earlier. However, they would have been very wrong indeed for the previous two decades and the last three runnings. The Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at the December Meeting and the Crest Nicholson Handicap on Trials Day at the end of January have been better recent guides at the course featuring a couple of winners each in the last decade.
Horses with fewer than 17 chase starts will make up the lion’s share of the field so the fact that 18 of the last 19 winners had run no more than 16 times over fences is not as strong a trend as first appears. Five of the last 22 winners were novices (including last season’s 1-2) as were seven of the last 16 runners-up.
At a glance summary
- Trained by David Pipe, Venetia Williams or Nicky Henderson
- Don’t be put off by big prices
- Over 16 chase career starts
- Trained in Ireland or by Paul Nicholls
- Contested the BetVictor Gold Cup