Last year’s race
- Winner: Native River
- Jockey: R Johnson
- Trainer: C L Tizzard
- Owner: Brocade Racing
- Age: 8 Weight: 11st 10lb
- Starting Price: 5/1
- Season Form Figures: 1
- Previous Best: 1st - Hennessy Gold Cup (Handicap) (Grade 3) Newbury (November 2016)
I love a second-season chaser for the Gold Cup and Sizing John became the fourteenth such winner in the last 28 runnings in 2017, which is saying something given how heavily outnumbered they have been. In fact, when Sizing John beat Minella Rocco and Native River, he was a leading home a 1-2-3 for second-season chasers. Their chief contenders this season at the time of writing are the Irish quartet of Presenting Percy, Kemboy, Al Boum Photo and Monalee. The Welsh Grand National winner, Elegant Escape, looks the best hope of second-season chasers representing the home team.
Naturally, the RSA Chase has been the key guide for second-season chasers and Presenting Percy will attempt to become the ninth Gold Cup winner to have contested that contest the previous year since 1980 and his supporters will hope that he can emulate Master Smudge, Garrison Savannah, Looks Like Trouble, Denman, Bobs Worth and Lord Windermere who completed the RSA-Gold Cup 12 months apart. He was as classy as any of those in victory and so leads the Irish challenge in search of the 25th Gold Cup who had a 1-2-3-4 in 2016.
The last winner aged in double figures was 21 years ago when Cool Dawn was successful so that’s the big statistical negative against last season’s runner-up, Might Bite, who hasn’t beaten a rival in two starts this season, the 2015 hero, Coneygree at the age of 12, the 10-year-olds Definitly Red and Valtor, and most significantly of all, Thistlecrack at the age of 11 having missed the last two Gold Cups through injury after a stunning victory in the Stayers’ Hurdle. All 75 horses aged 10+ since then have been beaten which included 16 horses sent off at 10/1 or lower and four outright favourites.
I love a second-season chaser for the Gold Cup and Sizing John became the fourteenth such winner in the last 28 runnings in 2017, which is saying something given how heavily outnumbered they have been.
With regards to current-season form, 15 of the last 19 winners were in action over Christmas either contesting the King George VI Chase in which Clan Des Obeaux beat Thistlecrack or the Savills Chase won easily by the Willie Mullins-trained Kemboy in a very-steadily-run race. Ten of the last 19 Gold Cup winners contested the King George and five of the last 13 winners ran in the Savills Chase. From 22 runners to date, Mullins has saddled as many as six runners-up; Florida Pearl, Hedgehunter, Sir Des Champs, On His Own and Djakadam (x2) so his quest for that elusive Gold Cup victory continues.
Sticking with current season form, 27 of the last 31 winners finished in the first four last time out, only two winners since 1997 had not won earlier in the season, nine of the last 17 winners had not run during the same calendar year and, when two of the last six winners only had one run earlier in the season. Garrison Savannah did likewise in 1991.
With regards to proven class, if your fancy has yet to win a Grade 1 race then you might want to seriously think again as the last 19 winners entered jumping’s blue riband with a victory at the highest level safely locked away at some point earlier in their career. The shortest-priced contenders that trend would be against are Definitly Red, Elegant Escape and last season’s third, Anibale Fly. On a similar theme, of the last 18 winners, only War Of Attrition and Lord Windermere failed to enter the race with an official BHA rating of 166+.
Sixteen of the last 18 winners could be found in the first three in the betting, which doesn’t include Sizing John who was sent off 7/1 fourth-favourite two years ago so it has very much became a race for the leading fancies, which was not the case in the 1990s.
Although 13 of the last 18 winners had finished first or second at the Festival before, 12 of the last 14 winners were running in the Gold Cup for the first time. Not so Native River last season who improved on his placed effort the previous season, as did Bregawn in 1983 and Kauto Star in 2009. Road To Respect finished fourth last season on ground too testing for his liking, so that run can be marked up, and his supporters can take hope from the fact that Cool Ground and The Fellow both finished fourth the season before they won the Gold Cup.
At a glance summary
- Second-season chasers
- Ran in the King George VI Chase or Savills Chase
- Won or second at the Festival before
- Front three in the betting
- Not run during the same calendar year
- Never won a Grade 1 race
- Not officially rated 166+
- Failed to win earlier in the season
- Failed to finish first or second last time out
- Six-year-olds or aged 10+