In the unlikely event that you've never heard of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, here's what all the fuss is about. The Gold Cup is the most prestigious Grade 1 steeplechase in jumps racing, and arguably the most prestigious race in all of National Hunt racing.
Run as the feature race of the final day of the Cheltenham Festival it features the finest middle distance steeplechase racehorses competing on a 3 mile 2.5 furlong course with 22 fences.
The most notable thing about the Cheltenham Gold Cup is that it's one of two jumps races that draws a wide audience from outside the racing community. Winners, and particularly repeat winners, of the Gold Cup are frequently elevated to celebrity status by a win in the race.
Cheltenham Gold Cup trends
One of the most notable trends in the Cheltenham Gold Cup is its tendency to betray punters who get behind the favourite. While favourites have managed to win two of the last five races, the remainder have produced upsets where all the antepost favourite could manage was a single third place.
The poor showing of the favourites has impacted the way bookies price the antepost favourite, with the result that not a single horse has run out at a price under 2/1 since Kauto Star took his last Gold Cup title in 2009.
What unites the winners of this race?
Recently, not very much. While both the King George VI Chase and the Lexus Chase are considered handy trials, both races have produced just one champion in recent years. To complicate matters even a pre-Cheltenham Festival win doesn't seem like the prerequisite it should be. Four of the last five winners won prior to their Cheltenham run, but Lord Windermere took the title after finishing his previous race in 6th place.
All of the winners since 2010 aside from Lord Windermere have carried ratings of over 165 into the race, but while a high rating is a useful pointer it's not a guarantee. In fact the top rated horse in the field hasn't won the Gold Cup once since Kauto Star went on his winning streak in the race.
2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup field
Part of what makes it hard to pick out trends in this race is the Gold Cup's one consistent trend - a really top class field with not much separating the top several horses in the betting. 2016 is no exception, with a number of horses in the field rated over 165 and the top rated Cue Card weighing in with an official rating of 176.
Antepost favourite Don Cossack has a handy rating of 175, along with wins in the JNWine Champion Chase, last season's Punchestown Gold Cup and Aintree's Melling Chase. He was a faller in the King George VI Chase in December, but bounced back in style with a 9 length win in a Grade 2 at Thurles last time out. He's trading at around 4/1 at most bookies, and is a no-brainer for an each-way bet that will return your full stake if he only places.
Djakadam's connections are hoping he'll go one better in 2016 after he finished second to Coneygree in the 2015 Cheltenham Gold Cup. He's since managed to win the Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase, but this Grade 1 success was sabotaged by a fall at Cheltenham a couple of months later. He's been out of action since, so there's no way to tell how he's responded to that fall. Any way you look at it, a fall is very poor preparation for a serious Gold Cup title bid.
Cue Card has been in fine form this season, winning the King George VI Chase as well as the Betfair Chase. This clutch of Group 1 wins has pushed his rating over the 170 mark and if it weren't for the fact that he's been substantially bested by Don Cossack on a number of occasions he might be a more popular option. At a price of 11/2 he still offers plenty of value, but is more likely to place than win.
Finally Don Poli comes into the race as the reigning Lexus Chase and RSA Chase winner. History suggests that both races are decent testing ground for the Gold Cup, and with two wins from two starts this season he's going to be in the mix come raceday. Most bookies have him priced around 5/1 which means he also offers you the opportunity to profit off an each-way bet if he places.