All you need to know about the Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle at Cheltenham Racecourse on March 13.
When and where can I watch the Coral Cup: 2.50pm Cheltenham, March 13. Live on Racing TV.
What Grade is it? Grade Three. What course is the Coral Cup staged on? Old Course
What Distance is it? 2m 5f (10 hurdles). What is the Coral Cup prize-money? £100,000
What ages? For 4yo+ . What weights and allowances: Handicap
What Sponsor? Coral
Key Statistics and Trends:
On the up:
Eight of the last 12 were second-season hurdlers and Blue Berry, last year's winner, effectively was as well. He ran once - and fell - in his first campaign over hurdles.
Bad race for favourites:
The past 15 favourites have all benn been beaten.
All bar three of the winners this century were aged between five and seven. Horses aged 10+ are just two from 30 to even place since 1999.
Twenty-one of the 24 winners were officially rated no higher than 147 (Whisper - (153, 2014), Diamond King (149, 2016) and Supasundae - (148, 2017) have been the exceptions).
Thirteen of the last 14 winners had not run within at least 32 days of the Festival.
Headgear no help:
The last 73 horses wearing headgear (blinkers, visor, cheekpieces0 have been beaten.
Only three winners since 2000 had run more than nine times over hurdles.
Festival experience not a worry:
Fourteen of the last 18 winners had not raced at the Festival previously.
The Coral Cup, run over two miles and five furlongs, was introduced in 1993 and is one of the season’s most competitive handicaps.
The first winner, Olympian, picked up a £50,000 bonus, having won the Imperial Cup at Sandown Park the previous weekend.
The bonus was put up by Sunderlands, the then sponsor of the Imperial Cup, to any horse that won the Sandown race and went on to success in any contest at The Festival. The incentive has been continued by other sponsors and Matchbook have increased it to £100,000 this year.
The 2008 winner Naiad Du Misselot was the first Festival winner to succeed by the then recently introduced new distance of a nose when he beat Kicks For Free. No horse has won the race more than once.
Last six winners:
2018: Bleu Berry
Not a bad spare for Mark Walsh, one of Ireland’s top jockeys who tasted Festival success for the first time by delivering the seven-year-old with a well-timed challenge to beat Topofthegame by a neck at 20-1.
Jockey Paul Townend switched to Max Dynamite after injury to Ruby Walsh in the preceding race and the late substitute was at his cool best on Bleu Berry, settled right at the back off a good gallop and brought into contention as the field bunched up turning down the hill.
“You don’t want to ride a winner like that but I’m just delighted to be called up by Willie,” said the winning rider. “We got the splits, he winged the last and everything went to plan.”
2017 – Supasundae
Supasundae, representing Jessica Harrington and the Potts family, had run respectably in the Weatherbys Champion Bumper and Supreme Novices’ Hurdle at the previous two Festivals, without ever really threatening but he made it third-time lucky by edging into the lead on the home turn and staying on strongly under Robbie Power to see off Taquin Du Seuil by two comfortable lengths.
It was to be a momentous week for this owner-trainer-jockey combination, who combined to win the Gold Cup with Sizing John on the final day.
Supasundae has progressed further to upset Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle and he was runner-up in last year's Stayers’ Hurdle.
2016 – Diamond King
The handicapper had had his say after Diamond King trounced five rivals at Punchestown on his previous start and a 13lb higher mark in this hotly-contested handicap demanded plenty more from the Gordon Elliott-trained eight-year-old, but he had clearly been laid out for this and he had all the right answers on the day.
Held up by Davy Russell, who was riding his third winner of the race, he was still on the bridle two-out and, once the button was pushed, Diamond King motored up the inside to clear away after the last and win decisively.
2015 – Aux Ptit Soins
It’s almost unheard of for a horse making their debut on British soil to land one of the most competitive handicaps in the calendar, but that’s exactly what Aux Ptits Soins did in 2015.
Although he had won both hurdles starts in France, the John Hales-owned five-year-old was returning from a 181-day absence and having just his fourth career start, so this was a tall order even allowing for the fact that he was potentially nicely treated on his French form.
On that basis, this goes down as one of the great training performances from Paul Nicholls and his team at Ditcheat, who produced the horse superbly on the day, but connections seemed to have a good idea they had something special on their hands, as the trainer said afterwards: "Aux Ptits Soins did two brilliant bits of work and Nick Scholfield said he was the best horse he has ever sat on but it's different doing it in a race. Homework doesn't really tell you anything."
2014 – Whisper
Whisper became the highest-ever rated winner of this event when prevailing by a short-head off a mark of a BHA mark of 153, although he was aided by the 5lb claim of rider Nico De Boinville, which ultimately proved the difference between defeat and victory given the winning margin over Get Me Out Of Here.
The young jockey would have taken great pride from the fact that it was the great Tony McCoy whom he got the better of in a ding-dong tussle to the line.
Whisper was improving at a rate of knots at that time, so much so that he went on to beat At Fishers Cross in the Grade One Stayers’ Hurdle at Aintree the following month and has latterly become a fine chaser.
2013 – Medinas
What Medinas lacked in size he more than made up for in heart and he forged past his better-fancied stablemate Meister Eckhart up the hill to post a career-best performance and cause a 33-1 boil over under Wayne Hutchinson.
He had won the Welsh Champion Hurdle on his previous start and Alan King, who was winning the Coral Cup for the first time, had thought that a subsequent 8lb rise meant Medinas would likely struggle against better-handicapped rivals, saying “I fancied the second more, I thought Medinas was handicapped out of it”.
He was a tough horse on a roll, and he went on to win at Graded level in Newbury’s Long Distance Hurdle.
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