Royal Hunt Cup Stats and Trends

Royal Ascot may be most associated with the steady stream of Group class contests, which see the best of the best lock horns on the famous Berkshire turf and, with 22 of the 35 races rated at Listed level or above, that association is merited. However, that still leaves 13 contests which don’t fall into the Listed or Group racing category. Included in that number are several of the most compelling handicap events of the season

Perhaps the most iconic of these handicap affairs comes on the second day at the meeting, as a maximum field of 30 spreads across the track for the distinctive spectacle of the Royal Hunt Cup. First run in 1843, this £175,000 (2024), Class 2 event over the straight mile is regularly targeted by connections of the most promising handicappers in training – with many winners going on to make their presence felt at a higher level.

Invariably one of the biggest betting heats of the meeting, the Royal Hunt Cup is also one of the trickiest contests of the season for punters to solve. To shed a little light on what sort of horse it takes to prevail, here, we look back at the 24 editions of the race between 2000 and 2023 and pick out a selection of stats and trends which may assist in narrowing the field.

Age of Winner

Royal Hunt Cup Age of Winner

The Royal Hunt Cup may be open to runners aged three and above, but none so young have come home front in the modern era. At the other end of the spectrum, the seven-year-old, Field of Dream, became the oldest winner in over 40 years when landing the prize in 2014. Four-year-olds boast much the best record in the current century, having claimed 14 of the 24 editions in our sample, whilst 21 of 24 winners (87.50%) were either four or five years of age.


Royal Hunt Cup Weight Carried by Winner

The minimum weight for the Royal Hunt Cup is 8st2lb. Runners rated 110 will carry 9st12lb, whilst one pound is added per rating point above 110. As we can see in the above chart, carrying a big weight to success has proved impossible in recent years, with every winner in our sample shouldered with 9st5lb or less on the day.

However, the same is true at the bottom end of the scale, with a lower weight seemingly not enough to balance any lack of ability – although we should bear in mind that this race is often so competitive that those set to carry a featherweight may not make the final line up. The most successful bracket is the 9st-9st5lb range, with 15 of 24 winners (62.50%) falling into that category.

The Draw

Royal Hunt Cup Draw of Winner

These days, the Royal Hunt Cup is restricted to 30 runners. Overall, it would appear that high is the place to be. Splitting the above results into low, middle, and high categories, seven winners (29.16%) emerged from stalls 1-10, five (20.83%) from stalls 11-20, and 12 (50%) from stall 21 or above.

Rating of Winner

Royal Hunt Cup Rating of Winner

The 21st century has witnessed a notable upward trend in the winner’s rating – beginning at an average of 96 and ending five points higher at 101. Before 2012, six winners were rated at 95 or below. Since 2012, all bar one has been rated 96 or higher. The average rating of the winner over the whole period is 98.42. Since 2012, the average figure sits at 100.08.

Finishing Position Last Time Out

Royal Hunt Cup Finishing Position Last Time Out

Most Royal Hunt Cup winners arrive on the back of a positive performance, with 16 of 24 (66.67%) finishing in the top four last time out. The fact that seven winners also scored on their previous outing – and so received a hike in the handicap – suggests that the race often falls to a sharply progressive handicapper. Of the eight who finished fifth or below, five were five or older – hinting at a previously smart performer dropping to an advantageous mark.

Previous Handicap Starts

Royal Hunt Cup Previous Starts in a Handicap

The more outings a horse has in a handicap, the more likely the assessor will zero in on a rating representative of their ability. Those with fewer outings are more likely to have something up their sleeve on the day. That theory certainly holds in the Royal Hunt Cup, with 17 of 24 winners (70.83%) having 10 or fewer previous handicap outings.

Fate of the Favourite

A difficult race on paper, and a difficult race in practice. The 24 editions in our sample featured just one winning favourite – handing supporters of the market leader a loss of £19 to £1 level stakes. Overall, eight of 24 winners returned a single-figure SP; eight were between 10/1 and 18/1, with the remainder 20/1 or bigger. Belgian Bill caused the biggest shock when scoring at 33/1 for George Baker in 2013.

Other Stats

  • Two-time winners Frankie Dettori, James Doyle and Jimmy Fortune were the only riders with more than one success over this period.
  • Charles Hills, James Fanshawe, John Gosden and Saeed Bin Suroor topped the trainers’ table with two wins apiece.
  • Dark Angel and Oasis Dream were the only two sires with more than one win (two each).
  • 20 of 24 winners (83.33%) had previously scored over 1m or further.
  • 14 of 24 winners (58.33%) had previously won at Class 2 level or above.
  • 19 of 24 winners (79.17%) had run within the last 46 days.
  • Only four of 24 had previously won at Ascot.