Coral Cup

This is a handicap to be respected by all shrewd value hunters. Despite its ultra-competitive make-up, plenty of major gambles have been landed over the years…

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DAY THREE LUCKY 15

What happened in 2013?

Welsh Champion Hurdle winner Medinas defied the lack of market support to run out a very gutsy winner at 33/1.

All the money before the race was piled on Pendra for Charlie Longsdon and AP McCoy but he failed to fire as Alan King’s charge, despite being no bigger than a pony, charged up the Cheltenham hill to give his stable a much needed big handicap winner.

He was the longest price of the King runners but was the first string on jockey bookings with Wayne Hutchinson booked. It was a perfect decision as Hutchinson rode his rivals to sleep to perfectly time his run on the little terrier scored by two lengths in front of his stablemate Meister Eckhart.

The runner-up put up a fine effort and did much the best of those that raced up with the pace, whilst the third and fourth Fiveforthree and Master Of The Sea also deserve credit and would be of interest when returning here on similar marks in 2014.

2014 Major Players

Like all major Cheltenham Festival handicaps, it’s almost impossible to have a confident prediction about who will line up on the day. Please feel free to return here nearer the race for a lowdown on all the big challengers.

Betting advice: strong race trends

Medinas’ win was a huge blow to trend followers as usually it pays to automatically rule out any horse rated over 147 in the weights. King’s winner, who was rated 148, was only the second horse in the last 13 years to win the Coral Cup in that weight bracket.

However, he did hold up a developing trend of second season hurdlers in the Coral Cup. That’s now seven years out of nine that lightly raced horses on the upgrade have landed the prestigious handicap.

The strength of this stat came to the fore in 2011 when the first three past the post (Carlo Brigante the winner) were all second season chasers, and it would have been an amazing 1-2-3-4 from a 17% representation if For Non Stop hadn’t tipped up at the final flight.

This is certainly race for a plot. Connections have this race in mind for a talented horse perhaps nearly 12 months in advance.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise to see very lightly raced horses, without too many wins to their name performing above average.

The fact that three of the last eight winners hadn’t even had a run in that calendar year is a pretty remarkable stat for a race at the Cheltenham Festival, which only further enhances the plot-like nature of this important handicap.

When a plot is being planned, there’s a good chance that JP McManus is behind and he is well worth keeping an eye on having owned two Coral Cup winners and a plethora of placed horses.

The Irish also have a very eye-catching record in this race, winning seven of the last 20 runnings from just a 20% representation. The Irish winners have dried up in recent years though as the British handicappers have smarted up to the fact that many Irish challengers were being leniently weighted going into this race.

Key trials

There’s plenty of races to monitor over the season over this distance, perhaps the most noteworthy is the Betfair Hurdle at Newbury, having produced three winners from the last nine runnings.

Ante-post tip

Bookmakers have yet to price up this market as there is little point in doing so as its nigh-on impossible to plan which horses will undertake this challenge.