Cheltenham Gold Cup: What it Takes to be a Winner

Officer Drivel wins at KemptonBy racehorse trainer Luke Dace

With the Cheltenham Gold Cup just behind us, it’s an important time to reflect on why the racehorses that win the festival are just so superb on the track. Myself and many other owners and trainers have pondered this all important question. What does it take to be a winner? I think it’s down to a number of reasons, but mainly, the secret to success lies ultimately in physical raw talent of the horse, pedigree and consistent training.


Firstly, breed is essential. The thoroughbred is the noblest of racehorses, and will be seen most frequently on the track. Thoroughbreds have been bred specifically to race and are known for their agility, speed and spirit, so winners tend to be of this breed.


Racehorses are sold according to their pedigree, so successful racehorses tend to have equally winning parents, with the stallion and mare having elite genes themselves. Many of the former winning racehorses I have trained go on to become mares and sires, just like their own parents before them. In fact, foaling season is upon us and previous champion racehorses I trained, Shared Moment and Brooksby, both recently gave birth to a filly and colt foal, respectively.


Winning racehorses require the ideal body shape. They should look balanced and equally in proportion, and like a Van Gogh masterpiece; they should be pleasing to observe.

The most successful racehorses tend to have large frames, as lighter framed horses (those with smaller bone structure) are more prone to injury. Supreme racehorses need large lungs and powerful hearts to pump all of that oxygen around the body when racing, resulting in wide chests. Expect to see big nostrils too, which help to take in the extra air required when galloping at break-neck speed.

A racehorse’s power comes from behind, so winners have extremely powerful buttocks, hips and backs. These muscular parts provide the horse with the power it needs to drive forward when racing.


Whilst excellent physical form is essential, another important aspect of a winning racehorse is temperament and personality. Horses can be just like us; happy, moody and above all, competitive. Winners have the desire to come first, and so they’re going to give it their all in a race.


Lastly, a finely formed horse is nothing without superb training. A top class trainer takes these skills and transforms the horse into a champion, ready to take on the race.

Having trained many winning racehorses to date and had several entries in the Cheltenham Festival, including American Spin (who ran at this year’s event), the facilities at my West Sussex facility are second to none. If you’re a racehorse owner interested in find out more about my racehorse training facilities, contact me on 07949 401085 or email Alternatively, you can call my wife Louise on 07974 765506.