Cheltenham Festival biggest shocks and upsets
Cheltenham Festival race history
The Cheltenham Festival would lose its tag as the most prestigious meeting in the National Hunt calendar if it wasn’t for the shocks and upsets that test the wallet strings of so many punters. Time and time again winners, some as large as 100/1, have defied their odds to put on a Cheltenham masterclass and arrive first home. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and take a look at those unexpected few that have landed major honours at major prices over the last decade.
Twelve months ago it was the Champion Bumper that threw up the largest price winner of the 2010 Cheltenham Festival. Colin Tizzard’s Cue Card romped home by eight lengths to defy odds of 40/1 and now looks a future star in the making. When winners go in at such large prices, some would class it as a one-off but with Cue Card it seems the festival have unearthed a real gem. It will be interesting to see which race he is entered for in March but is certain to go off at single figure odds.
It is usually handicap races that throw up the most unexpected winners. With all horses weighted accordingly and by the letter of the law, all should hold an even chance of winning a handicap contest. And this is partly the reason why we witness horses so weak in the market causing tremendous upsets on the largest of stages. The largest price winner of the last ten years was David Elsworth’s Mister McGoldrick that won the Racing Post Plate Handicap Chase at 66/1 in 2008. He stormed home by a whopping thirteen lengths and put punters firmly in their place in the process.
Shocks in the championship races
If we take a look at the biggest shocks in the four major championship races, probably the biggest upset came in the 2004 Champion Hurdle. The Dessie Hughes trained Hardy Eustace defied odds of 33/1 to land the spoils in the feature on day one. In fact 2004 had its fair share of upsets and on day three the Kim Muir and Pertemps Handicap Hurdle were won by 40/1 and 50/1 shots respectively. The Gold Cup has predominately been landed by those at short prices and War of Attrition was the largest price victor at 15/2 in 2006 since the turn of the millennium. However the 1990 Gold Cup arguably provided the greatest Cheltenham festival shock ever when Norton’s Coin ridden by Graham McCourt arrived first home at an unprecedented 100/1. And what a stage to deliver it! Since, there have been no triple price winners but could that change in 2011?
The handicaps are most likely to seek out large price winners such is their unpredictability. Grade races generally go to those who take up a kind position in the market but anything can happen in a handicap, literally anything! So if one is fancying a punt on a friendless horse in the market, try your hand at one in a handicap where stranger things have happened!
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