Staged at Sandown racecourse the Imperial Cup in a hurdle race run over 2m 1/2f. Run just days before the start of the Cheltenham Festival the contest always takes has an added interest for punters and trainers as traditionally the race sponsors have traditional put up an extra £50,000 should the winner go onto land any festival race the following week – the 2020 race sponsors are leading bookmaker, Paddy Power.
In recent years that incentive has seen powerful stables like Henderson and Hobbs target the race, but it’s the Pipe yard that hold the best recent record – winning the race four times in the last 15 years and 9 times in all.
The last horses to win the Imperial Cup and then go onto land a Festival race the following week are Olympian (1993), Blowing Wind (1998) and Gaspara (2007). While the 2016 winner – Flying Angel – only just failed to land the bonus after running second in the Martin Pipe Conditionals race. The last three winners – Malaya, London Prize and Mr Antolini – didn’t go onto run at the Cheltenham Festival.
Here at JUICESTORM we take a look back at recent winners and give you all the key stats to take into the 2021 renewal – this year run on Saturday 13th March.
Recent Imperial Cup Winners
2020 – Abandoned
2019 – MALAYA (7/1)
2018 – MR ANTOLINI (20/1)
2017 – LONDON PRIZE (10/1)
2016 – FLYING ANGEL (9/1)
2015 – EBONY EXPRESS (33/1)
2014 – BALTIMORE ROCK (7/1)
2013 – FIRST AVENUE (20/1)
2012 – PAINTBALL (20/1)
2011 – ALARAZI (10/1)
2010 – QASPAL (11/4 fav)
2009 – DAVE’S DREAM (12/1)
2008 – ASHKAZAR (10/3 fav)
2007 – GASPARA (11/4 fav)
2006 – VICTRAM (8/1)
2005 – MEDISON (9/2 fav)
2004 – SCORNED (14/1)
2003 – KORELO (9/4 fav)
Imperial Cup Betting Trends and Stats
16/17 – Had won no more than twice over hurdles before
16/17 – Had raced within the last 6 weeks
15/17 – Had won between 1-2 times over hurdles before
15/17 – Carried 10-13 or less
14/17 – Rated 124 or higher
13/17 – Aged 6 or younger
12/17 – Carried 10-7 or less
10/17 – Winners that went onto run at the Cheltenham Festival (1 winner, Gaspara – Fred Winter)
11/17 – Had won over at least 2m1f (hurdles) before
10/17 – Finished in the top two last time out
9/17 – Winning distance – 3 ½ lengths or more
8/17 – Returned a double-figure price in the betting
8/17 – Aged 4 or 5 years-old
6/17 – Raced at either Cheltenham (2), Sandown (2) or Ascot (2) last time out
6/17 – Won last time out
6/17 – French bred
5/17 – Winning favourites
5/17 – Had raced at Sandown (hurdles) before – 2 had won there before
5/17 – Won by the Pipe stable (have won it 9 times in all)
2/17 – Trained by Nigel Twiston-Davies (2 of last 4)
1/17 – Won by an Irish-trained horse
The average winning SP in the last 17 years is 11/1
This month’s Paddy Power Imperial Cup does tend to get a bit overshadowed by Cheltenham, as it’s always run on the Saturday before the Festival.
However, for many, it’s also one of the triggers that denotes the best four days of jumps action is just around the corner!
This month, the Paddy Power Imperial Cup will be staged on Saturday 13th March and another thing that’s always associated with this race is the bonus the sponsors put up should the winner go onto land ‘ANY’ Cheltenham race at the Festival the following week.
At the time of writing, I’m not 100% about the bonus, but knowing the way Paddy Power love a marketing angle, then it would be a big shock if it’s not on offer as usual.
Over the years, we’ve seen three horses land the famous double and they were all trained by the Pipes – two by Martin (Olympian 1993 and Blowing Wind 1998) and one by David (Gaspara 2007).
In 2016, the winner – Flying Angel – also went close by running second in the Martin Pipe Conditionals race, but the last three winners of the Imperial Cup failed to make it to Cheltenham.
Twelve months ago, we also saw this Imperial Cup meeting cancelled due to a waterlogged track – the first time that’s happened to the race since 1975. Fingers crossed they get back on track this month!
Right, so what are the key trends to look out for?
Weight – Being a handicap, then weight carried is a good place to start. In the last 17 runnings a massive 15 winners carried 10st 13lbs or less, so make this your cut-off. If, however, you want to take this weight stat a bit further then it could pay to know that 12 of the last 17 winners actually only had 10st 7lbs or less.
Recent Hurdles Wins – You might be slightly surprised to know that 16 of the last 17 winners had won no more than twice over hurdles in the past. This sort of backs up the weight trend that lesser, unexposed hurdlers, that the handicapper probably hasn’t quite got a grip of yet, tend to do well.
Current Form – Coming into the race off the back of a good recent run is another trend to note. 16 of the last 17 winners had raced in the last six weeks, plus 10 of the last 17 successful horses finished in the first two in their most recent race.
Age – In 2013 and 2018 we saw 8 year-olds win the race, but really the younger horses have dominated. 13 of the last 17 (76%) winners were aged 6 or younger, with five of the last six winners aged either 5 or 6 years-old. Since 1984, there’s only been one winner aged 9, while I’ve gone back to 1947 and can’t find a winner aged in double-figures
Favourites – In the last 17 runnings the average winning SP has been 11/1, while we’ve seen five winning favourites (29%), which is not too bad a strike-rate considering the competitive nature of the race. However, there is a small word of caution here as the last of those winning market leaders was back in 2010, so we are currently on a stretch of nine races with a winning jolly.
Top Stables – It’s a race that ‘big gun’ stables of Nicky Henderson (2009) and Paul Nicholls (2019) have only landed once each, but it goes without saying anything they run should always be respected. The Nigel Twiston-Davies yard have done well, winning two of the last four, but as mentioned in the intro, it’s the Pipe yard that have dominated in recent times. Martin Pipe won the race six times during his training career, while since taking over the Pond House reins, son David is hot on his heels with three wins.