Cheltenham Gold Cup trends analysis: Protektorat to turn tables on A Plus Tard?

As the Cheltenham Festival enters its final day, racing analyst Andrew of Fiosrach has been studying the numbers to give us a trends-based appraisal of the top contenders for the Gold Cup.

We will have put 23 races of the Festival behind us by the time the Boodles Gold Cup finally gets under way at 3.30pm on Friday afternoon. 

The build-up will finally be over and the 2023 winner will be just three and a quarter miles and 22 fences away from Cheltenham glory.

Prior to the Festival I studied recent trends to see just what boxes might need to be ticked to produce the winner of the world's biggest Grade One National Hunt race. 

The main trends for the Cheltenham Gold Cup:

  • 20 / 20 (52%) - Had 1-10 wins (Class)
  • 20 / 20 (53%) - In top 7 of betting market
  • 20 / 20 (53%) - Highest Class Won is G1
  • 20 / 20 (71%) - Had 1-11 placings (Class)
  • 20 / 20 (72%) - Won within last 4 starts
  • 20 / 20 (76%) - No older than nine years old
  • 20 / 20 (78%) - Not ran within last 30 days
  • 20 / 20 (79%) - Won within last 5 starts
  • 20 / 20 (79%) - Carried 159-166lbs last time out
  • 20 / 20 (80%) - Last Win was not Class 2-4
  • 20 / 20 (80%) - No bigger than 8/1 last time out
  • 20 / 20 (86%) - Not 3+ falls over fences
  • 20 / 20 (90%) - Not 5+ failed to finishes
  • 19 / 20 (71%) - Had 1-5 starts (Cheltenham)
  • 19 / 20 (76%) - Not Pun/Hay/Chp/Asc/Ain (LW)
  • 19 / 20 (81%) - No headgear or just tongue-tie
  • 18 / 20 (31%) - No bigger than 9/1

The record of favourites is important to note, with ten winners in the last twenty years converting to a 50 per cent strike rate; however, seven of those winning favourites came between 2003 and 2013, while only three of the last nine favourites (including two of the last three) have won for a 33 per cent strike rate since 2014.

Using the trends above, the field is reduced to half a dozen top-class contenders: namely, Galopin Des Champs, A Plus Tard, Bravemansgame, Ahoy Senor, Conflated and Protektorat

Noble Yeats and Stattler are in the top half-dozen in the betting, but have never won at Grade 1 level, although both will no doubt be staying on when others have had enough.

Four of the remaining shortlisted horses have won at Cheltenham and two have also won over the distance previously, namely last years' winner A Plus Tard and Protektorat, who finished third.

Looking at the remaining runners, Galopin Des Champs looks set to go off as the short-priced favourite, but he has never been further than three miles, and even after his win in the Irish equivalent at Leopardstown in February, there must still be a question mark about his stamina over three miles two furlongs with a long uphill finish.

He is undoubtedly very talented, but do you want to take that price for a horse unproven over the trip and that fell at the last Festival? 

Ahoy Senor and Conflated are probably just out of their depth, and Conflated has only run one race at Cheltenham (in which he fell), so let's rule them both out.

Bravemansgame is the top-rated British runner, having won six of his seven chases at distances up to 3 miles, and has only had one run at Cheltenham, where he finished third, twelve lengths behind Bob Olinger in last year's Ballymore Novices' Hurdle.

With no course or distance win to his name, I am ruling out Bravemansgame and that leaves A Plus Tard and Protektorat.

A Plus Tard won the race last year by an impressive fifteen lengths and his Cheltenham record reads 1,3,2,1; however, he was hugely disappointing when pulling up behind Protektorat in the Betfair Chase at Haydock back in November.

Henry De Bromhead stated at the time that A Plus Tard did not travel well, and that might well have been the case. 

More recent news from the yard has offered more encouragement, and the success of stablemate Envoi Allen in Thursday's Ryanair Chase has reignited market support for last year's Gold Cup winner.

Should A Plus Tard fail to deliver, our trend analysis leaves us with Protektorat, who at the age of eight can improve on last year's third place, and we know he certainly stays and likes the course, with a chase record here of 1,2,3,4.

He did disappoint when finishing fourth behind Ahoy Senor last time out, but was probably only 80 per cent and Dan Skelton remained upbeat about his progress.

That result moved him out in the market, where he has remained at a widely available 18/1 at the time of writing. 

Protektorat might need some of the principals to falter and to produce a flawless ride himself if he is to win, but those trends and his current price suggest he at least merits consideration for a frame finish, especially with up to five each-way places available with some bookmakers.

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