Article written

  • on 05.03.2013
  • at 09:54 AM
  • by KT

Five biggest shock victories of the Cheltenham Festival

The 2013 Cheltenham Festival is fast approaching and many punters will be feeling confident about their ante post selections, some having bagged fancy prices weeks, even months ago.

There’s no better feeling than securing 33/1 (or bigger!) on a horse that is trading at a single-figure price on the day, which is why most punters can’t resist an ante post dabble, and even better when the horse crosses the line in front.

Time for a reality check, though.

Whilst many a gamble will be landed over the course of the four days in March, it’s odds-on that bookmakers’ satchels (as opposed to punters pockets) will be bulging by end of it, and this swift recollection of the biggest shocks in the festival’s history is a timely reminder of what can go wrong.


Norton’s Coin winning the 1990 Gold Cup at 100/1

The floors of betting shops up and down the country were awash with losing betting slips after the the almost incredulous victory of the West Wales-trained horse at a monster 100/1 – the longest-odds winner in the race’s history. Let’s hope it stays like that! Even by his own admission, his farmer-trainer Sirrell Griffiths knew more about cows than horses, yet there was no apparent fluke about the victory, which came in record time. In doing so, he floored the previous season’s Gold Cup winner and nation’s favourite Desert Orchid, who had to settle for third.


Beech Road springing a shock in the 1989 Champion Hurdle at 50/1

A year earlier there had been a shock of similar proportions in the hurdlers’ showpiece event, with Toby Balding’s Beech Road flooring his better-fancied rivals at odds of 50/1 – Celtic Chief and Celtic Shot filled the places at 6/1 and 8/1 respectively. His price was largely down to some decidedly patchy form, with his jockey Richard Guest later describing him as a “big, skinny devil who looked awful most of the time.” However, on the day in question, the chestnut shone brilliantly and stormed up the hill under Guesty for a two length success.


Mister McGoldrick’s 66/1 stunner in the 2008 Racing Post Plate

Sue Smith’s gelding was largely considered to be a Wetherby specialist, having reserved his best performances for the Yorkshire track, but he blew that theory out of the water by dotting up (13 lengths no less) at 66/1 in what was supposed to be one of the festival’s most competitive handicaps. That was a real ‘skinner’ for the bookies and a kick in the teeth for punters, although some ‘lucky’ Tote customers got a nice surprise when they went to collect, being rewarded with a 146/1 payout.


Binocular defying odds of 999/1 in the 2010 Champion Hurdle

Talk about being put away! A few weeks before the big race Binocular had all been ruled out by connections due a muscle spasm and he was an inevitable drifter on Betfair, eventually hitting the maximum odds of 999/1. He was layed at this price. Pity the poor souls who did as he was soon back in the Champion picture following veterinary treatment, and even worse (for his layers) was burning up the gallops at home. The rest is history as he simply flew up the hill under Tony McCoy to win at 9/1 – ouch!


Hardy Eustace silencing punters when winning the 2004 Champion Hurdle at 33/1

The previous season’s Royal & SunAlliance winner was hard to fancy on that season’s form, having been turned over in much weaker contest in his native Ireland, and he had around 20lb to find on form with the popular grey Rooster Booster, who was punted into 11/8 on the day. The jolly favourite was held up by Richard Johnson and his backers would have cheered excitedly as he briefly took the lead at the last. However, he had no answer to the winner, who was sporting blinkers for the first time, and the margin of victory was a comfortable five lengths. Hardy Eustace made it back-to-back wins in 2005 when defeating the patiently ridden but ultimately reluctant Harchibald, but that’s another story altogether.

Good luck with your Cheltenham bets and let’s hope there aren’t too many shocks of the above variety!

Article written by Nick Wilby from

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