There aren’t many weeks that go by during the National Hunt season without a top staying handicap on the racing menu, and the run up to Christmas is no different with this excellent offering from Ascot, the Silver Cup.
This has been one of the classiest events of its type in the past, with previous winners including Cheltenham Gold Cup kings, Arkle and Cool Dawn. Whilst it is rare to see a runner in that bracket line up these days, the race does invariably still attract a high-quality field.
First run back in 1965, the Ascot Silver Cup forms part of the course’s richest day of jump racing alongside the Long Walk Hurdle and the Betfair Trophy.
Ascot Silver Cup Course Map (Jumps Course)
Ascot Silver Cup Past Winners
|Abandoned (frozen surface)
|Nico de Boinville
|The Young Master
|Houblon Des Obeaux
About The Ascot Silver Cup
When you mention Ascot the first thing that comes to any horse racing fan’s mind is the leading Flat racing meeting, Royal Ascot. The racecourse at Ascot is multi-faceted though and also plays host to a number of top class National Hunt races.
The Ascot Silver Cup is one such race. It’s a Premier handicap steeplechase which is run over a distance of about 3 miles (2 miles 7 furlongs and 180 yards, if you’re counting) and takes in 20 fences around Ascot’s Hunt course.
It’s the Hunt course that should be the first port of call for any punter looking for a winning Silver Cup bet. The right handed course is a particularly challenging one for many horses who struggle with its galloping nature combined with very testing fences. Navigating those fences at the sort of speeds horses tend to go round Ascot, even in a 3 mile contest, requires excellent jumping ability and it’s that which tends to set successful horses apart from the rest in the Silver Cup.
The other challenge for horses and trainers to navigate is the ground. The Silver Cup is held just days before Christmas and the changeable British winter weather can alter the going very quickly.
A lot of rain in the days leading up to the race will suit horses who prefer softer ground but a cold, dry spell could well make things firmer than is comfortable for many National Hunt horses.
A Highly Competitive Contest
It’s fair to say that the difficulty and unpredictability of the Ascot Hunt course has had an impact on the calibre of animals competing in the Silver Cup. It’s always been thought of as a very competitive handicap since first being introduced in 1965 and still receives a number of entries each and every year but there is a feeling that it’s lost some of the prestige of years gone by. That is perhaps reflected by the high number of different sponsors who have lent their names to the Silver Cup in more recent times.
Look Out for Unexposed Runners
Although this may have dropped in stature over the years, the Silver Cup is still a difficult race to win and so any successful horse should be considered for other competitive handicaps. Moreover, some trainers have used the Silver Cup as a chance to blood exciting younger horses in this sort of competitive atmosphere.
Take Frodon, who was second in 2017 as a five-year-old as an example. He went on to land a string of top class races including the Ryanair Chase at Cheltenham, the King George VI Chase at Kempton and the Ladbrokes Champion Chase at Down Royal, so it’s well worth making a note of eye catching performances from younger horses who look unexposed.
There are any number of competitive handicaps around the 3 mile distance. The challenge of Ascot means previous course form is important when assessing a potential winner but the most valuable thing punters can take from the Silver Cup are hints for picking out well priced options in other handicap chases.