Banker Blowouts – Five times it didn’t go to plan at Cheltenham
The notion of the Cheltenham ‘Banker’ is part of the Festival vernacular for racing tipsters, journalists and punters alike. This refers to a hot favourite for one of the races over the four days who’s defeat is seemingly unfathomable. These horses are often the cornerstone of the betting public’s accumulator bets (a bet where more than one horse is selected to increase the odds), and it’s simply a given that they will oblige.
However, racing is far from an exact science. And there’s been plenty of occasions where the ‘banker’ has failed to repay the public’s faith. Here are five of the most famous cases in recent Cheltenham history where the script was torn to shreds.
Douvan 2017 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase – 2/9
A 2/9 favourite at the off. Douvan was the very definition of the Cheltenham ‘Banker’. It was simply a matter of completing the course, or so they thought. However, this was not the same Douvan who had looked invincible when putting the field to the sword in the Arkle Chase the previous year. The gasps in the crowd when Douvan hit the third last fence told their own story, and he could only manage a laboured 7th in the end, with the crown going to Special Tiara and jockey Noel Fehily.
Special Tiara upsets the form in a Champion Chase shock as red-hot favourite Douvan proves deeply disappointing pic.twitter.com/OjJ3BKBjCT
— ITV Racing (@itvracing) March 15, 2017
Kauto Star 2008 Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup – 10/11
Arguably the best staying chaser of recent times. Kauto Star retired with two gold cups, five King George VI Chases and a host of Graded victories to his name. The fans’ favourite would always be well supported when he ran, not least during his three Cheltenham Gold Cup runs. Having won the big race in 2007, he was predictably an odds on favourite for the 2008 renewal, however he had another well-known rival coming into the race – his stablemate Denman AKA ‘The Tank – who’s sublime jumping, and rock ‘n’ roll front running style had ingratiated him to the racing public. The scene was set for and epic duel on the biggest stage.
The warning signs were out early doors, with Kauto making some uncharacteristic errors, and by contrast Denman had pinpoint accuracy at the fences. In the end Denman’s remorseless gallop would prove too much, and he ran out an emphatic winner to claim the trophy – much to the dismay of Kauto fans. They would be rewarded a year later, however, with Kauto Star coming back to his very best and defeating Denman in the 2010 Gold Cup.
A true great.
Take a look back to Denman’s 2008 Gold Cup victory. pic.twitter.com/Evfn9eb8JD
— CheltenhamRacecourse (@CheltenhamRaces) June 6, 2018
Un De Sceaux 2018 Ryanair Chase – 8/11
Last year’s Festival saw favourites such as Samcro, Buveur D’Air and Altior all land their short odds over the first two days. Going into Thursday, Un De Sceaux was the name on everyone’s lips in the Ryanair Chase. He already had Festival form under his belt, winning both the 2015 Arkle and 2017 Ryanair, along with had won a host of other Grade 1 races so far in his stellar career. His dreams of adding another Festival win however, came crashing down as he was headed by Balko Des Flos after the third last, and had to settle for 2nd.
A faller in the previous year’s JLT, Balko Des FLos had the measure of odds-on favourite Un De Sceaux in an intriguing Ryanair. Cue Card, who was pulled up, was retired a month later#FestivalFlashback pic.twitter.com/VZpAH9DYng
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) February 11, 2019
Dunguib 2010 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – 4/5
The Supreme Novices’ Hurdle is awaited with extra anticipation due to it being the opening race of the Festival each year on the Tuesday. The flags go up and the roar can be heard across the Cotswolds. The race is for young horses who have few runs under their belt, so it can be a tricky contest for those trying to pick a winner. However, in 2010 there was little doubt about the winner according to many. The Philip Fenton-trained Dunguib was the heavy bookies favourite months out from the start of that year’s Supreme, and one of the shortest priced runners at that year’s Festival. He’d already won at the 2011 Festival in facile style in the Wetherby’s Champion Bumper, and was expected to do the same in 2012. Dunguib was all set to get everyone off to a flyer. Menorah however, would spoil the party and get first run on the field, with Dunguib only managing to place in third.
Annie Power 2015 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle – 1/2
The fall that shocked the nation. The scene was set for the punting public. Day One of Cheltenham had four strong favourites in the hottest races of the day, all trained by the legendary Willie Mullins and ridden by top Cheltenham jockey Ruby Walsh. They included Douvan in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Un De Sceaux in the Arkle Chase, Faugheen in the Champion Hurdle and finally Annie Power in the Mares Hurdle. By 3.30pm 3 out of 4 of the selections had duly obliged, and the racing public were waiting on Annie Power, the odds on favourite, to finish what would have been a spectacular day for punters and disastrous for bookmakers. However, the racing gods had other ideas. Approaching the last Annie Power had the race at her mercy, before taking a look at the last hurdle and getting it all wrong. The crowd were stunned in disbelief as stablemate Glen’s Melody got up the hill to pick up the pieces. It was truly one of the most dramatic races the Festival had seen in years. Thankfully, Annie Power rose to her feet, and she’d be back the next year to land the Betway Champion Hurdle in style.