The Cheltenham Gold Cup is by far and away the richest and most prestigious Grade 1 contest in the British National Hunt season. It stands alongside the likes of Wimbledon and the FA Cup final as one of the biggest sporting events of the year and it always draws a huge audience. The entire Cheltenham Festival is the most important meeting of the season and the Gold Cup is the pièce de résistance within that. But how does it compare to other leading races from around the world? We have broken it down into a few key categories in order to analyse this:
For many people, the easiest way to gauge the importance of a sporting event is to take a look at the cold, hard cash at stake.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup offers £625,000 in prize money, making it the richest Grade 1 race in the UK. However, the Grand National trumps it by handing out £1 million, while the Epsom Derby, a Group 1 flat contest, is Britain’s richest race as it carries prize money of £1.5 million.
When you look further afield, you see some truly eye-watering sums being offered. The Dubai World Cup boosted prize money to a cool $12 million (£9 million), overtaking the Pegasus World Cup in Florida as the world’s richest race. In 2018, the Pegasus offered a record $16 million, but in 2019 it split that across two Grade 1 races – the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the new $7 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational. Meanwhile, the Everest in Sydney has a prize pot of AU$13 million (£7 million) and races like the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Japan Cup all vastly outstrip the Cheltenham Gold Cup in this respect.
The first Cheltenham Gold Cup took place in July 1819 as Spectre earned his owner a prize of 100 guineas by finishing first. It was first run as a jumps race in 1924, so that is the official date of its inauguration, but it is fair to say that it has a long and magnificent history.
The Dubai World Cup cannot compete with that, as it was only launched in 1996, while the Pegasus and the Everest only began in 2017. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe can match the Cheltenham Gold Cup in terms of its fine heritage, as can the Grand National and the UK’s leading flat races, but it is certainly nestled comfortably within a small and elite group in this regard.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup has really captured the imagination of the British and Irish public thanks to the enthralling spectacle it provides. The leading stayers in the business slog it out for 3 miles 2½ furlongs and they must clear 22 challenging fences during that time. It finishes with a final lung-busting dash up the hill in front of a screaming sea of fans and one runner earns fame and fortune by crossing the line ahead of the chasing pack. There is nothing quite like it in the world of horse racing.
The Grand National is longer, but it turns into a bit of a free for all, full of chaos as horses tumble all over the place. Punters know that they are watching only the elite runners battling for victory in the Gold Cup and it becomes a huge betting event as leading sites such as SportingIndex.com offer all manner of exciting markets. Jumps racing is only really popular in the UK and Ireland, so you do not have the added drama of clearing fences in other races across the world. The Cheltenham Gold Cup is a true adrenaline ride, as your heart is in your mouth every time the horse you backed attempts a tricky jump. It is also hard to beat Cheltenham when it comes to grandeur, pomp and ceremony, and the entire day offers a fine spectacle, set against a gorgeous backdrop.
The Gold Cup is the most prestigious race in the entire National Hunt calendar and it always draws a field that is teeming with elite talent. The runners line up at 3.30pm on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival and millions tune in for the action. It attracts all the leading trainers, jockeys and horses in the National Hunt scene, and whoever prevails becomes an instant superstar. You simply do not see that in flat racing due to its geographical spread. Many people wonder what would happen if Winx took on Cracksman, but it will never happen as they are competing at opposite ends of the world. All the leading jumps runners head to Cheltenham and whoever wins the Gold Cup is the absolute star of the sport, so the prestige is arguably unrivalled.