Established in 1957 as the Whitbread Gold Cup, the race is now sponsored by Bet365 and traditionally marks the end of the jumps season. Open to horses aged five years or older, the Bet365 Gold Cup is held at Sandown Park and is the feature race of a card featuring both flat and National Hunt races. The race has been won by giants of the sport, such as Desert Orchid and Arkle, but who will land the 2012 renewal? Read our 2012 Bet365 Gold Cup Preview and you might just find out!

This year’s Bet365 Gold Cup takes place on Saturday April 28th and there are currently 25 entrants amongst the field. In order to reduce that to a more manageable size, we’ll take a look at past winners of the Bet365 Gold Cup and see if any key trends emerge from the race that could be used to help us pick the winner of the 2012 renewal.

Usually, a good starting point when analysing a race for trends is the age of recent winners. In the case of the Bet365 Gold Cup however, this isn’t enormously helpful, though we can certainly glean a few pointers. For example, no horse aged twelve (or older) has ever won this race, so we should probably eliminate the likes of Knighton Combe and Vic Venturi from our Bet365 Gold Cup shortlist.

Furthermore, when you look at the Bet365 Gold Cup fields in the last ten years, there have been a total of 74 runners aged six to eight and 104 aged nine or older. The six to eight bracket has produced six winners and sixteen places, while the older horses have seen only four winners and twelve places. Although this isn’t an absolutely decisive trend, it does rather suggest that if in doubt, we ought to be siding with the younger horses in the Bet365 Gold Cup field.

A trend that is absolutely crucial however, relates to proven stamina. All horses that have won the Bet365 Gold Cup in the last ten years had already landed a race over at least 2m 4f, while 80% of those had already won over at least 3m 1f. Given the 3m 5f 110y trip facing the runners at Sandown, you can probably see why we should discount horses with stamina questions.

When attempting to find the winner of the 2012 Bet365 Gold Cup, we also need to be looking for a horse with a certain amount of class. Nine of the last ten winners had won a race in their career worth at least £20,000 while eight of the last ten winners ran in a Graded race, prior to heading to Sandown (both of the exceptions to this ran in big Class 2 races, worth £30,000).

By looking only at these three trends, we can already feel quite good about the chances of Jonjo O’Neill’s Galaxy Rock. The eight year old won a Grade 3 race over 3m 3f at Cheltenham in November (worth £22,000) and attempted the Scottish Grand National at the weekend, only to pull up. Assuming the horse comes out of that race okay, he will likely be there or thereabouts in this weekend’s Bet365 Gold Cup. With some bookmakers, Galaxy Rock is actually the favourite and is as short as 7.50 (13/2) in places, but with Coral you can currently take 10.00 (9/1) and this looks good to us.

In such a big field though, I always like to have another option – just in case. This tactic served us well in the Scottish Grand National last week, after our trends pick Lie Forrit was pulled out when found to be coughing. We opted for eventual winner Merigo as a back-up plan (I hope everybody got on!) and I’ll be trying something similar with the Bet365 Gold Cup too.

French bred horses have a notable recent record in the race, with 21 placed horses from just 48 runners in the past eight years, including four Bet365 Gold Cup winners. During the same period of time, all other nationalities combined to produce just nine placed horses (four winners) from 87 runners. With this in mind, I’ll be looking for a French bred selection as a get out, should things go wrong for Galaxy Rock.

Ouzbeck and Le Beau Bai are the two obvious starting points, having both proven their stamina in valuable races. Slight preference is for Le Beau Bai though, who I also fancied for the Grand National. Connections swerved Aintree in the end due to the drying ground, but if it continues to rain as it has been throughout the week, then Richard Lee’s nine year old charge is definitely worth a look on the morning of the race.

Advice:

The Bet365 Gold Cup
Saturday 28th April 2012, 15:10

Galaxy Rock @ 10.00 (Coral)
Le Beau Bai @ 11.00 (William Hill)