The Top 6 most shocking Cheltenham Festival moments

Features | 4th March 2019

The Cheltenham Festival has been no stranger to big shocks throughout the years.

Photo courtesy of Coral

With so much at stake and every runner out to run the race of their life, the potential for dramatic upsets goes up a notch or two. Below we profile six times that the odds were upset in biblical style.

  1. Norton’s Coin – 1990 Gold Cup 100/1

A 100/1 winner at Cheltenham is nigh on unheard of; a 100/1 winner in the most hotly contested race of the week is, frankly, doesn’t even bare thinking about. That was until 1990 when Norton’s Coin shook the racing world to its very core.

The horse’s trainer Sirrell Griffiths was a principally a dairy farmer in west Wales; training jumpers at home was his hobby (he only had 2 horses in training!) and simply having a horse good enough to run at Cheltenham was a victory in itself.

More a candidate for last than first, Norton’s Coin was up against a tough field including one of the all-time greats in Desert Orchid. However, against all the odds Norton’s Coin timed his run perfectly to the finish.

Griffiths doesn’t have any runners in Cheltenham this year but he’s been there, done that and ticked it off the bucket list!

  1. Cue Card – 2010 Bumper 40/1

Despite being a wide-margin winner on debut at Fontwell not many fancied the then four-year-old Cue Card; apart from the Tizzards – trainer Colin and jockey Joe.

Cue Card would blow his doubters away as he streaked away from the field up the home straight to win by 8 lengths: looking every inch the star he would go on to become.

A surprised Colin Tizzard said at the time “I thought we had some half-decent chances this week, but I never thought he would win like he has today”.

Find the video of the race here!

  1. Anzum – 1999 Stayers Hurdle 40/1

This race was a landmark event for two reasons, Anzum was the longest odds winner to ever take the Stayers Hurdle title and it was Richard Johnson’s first win at the festival. Richard’s overall tally has since reached 20 and with him going on to land the three other Championship races since.

Anzum looked completely out of the running at the third last hurdle, toiling away in 8th placed but under a rampant Johnson he managed to find another gear when others wilted. The seven-year-old went past the joint second favourite Le Coudray and the higher-rated Lady Rebecca close to the line, eventually prevailing by a head.

Anzum would then go on to win the Champion Stayers Hurdle at Punchestown in his next race; showing that maybe it wasn’t such a fluke after all!

  1. Hardy Eustace – 2004 Champion Hurdle 33/1

Hardy Eustace and trainer Dessie Hughes decided to go for the big prize of the Champion Hurdle instead of the Coral Cup. A punt that paid back with interest.

Hughes decided to put blinkers on Hardy Eustace for the first time to counteract his ‘laziness’ when leading from the front which proved a masterstroke.

The six-year-old jumped off in front and stayed there for the rest of the race. Hardy Eustace fended off the challenge from firm favourite Rooster Booster who, despite looming up ominously at the bottom of the Cheltenham hill, didn’t have anything left in the tank by the end of the race.

The champ returned next year with jockey Conor O’Dwyer at  shorter odds and went on to defend this title. The bookies having obviously learnt their lesson!

  1. Lord Windermere – 2014 Gold Cup 33/1

2013 RSA Chase winner Lord Windermere had finished eight, seventh and sixth in his three previous outings to the 2014 Gold Cup, with few pundits giving him any chance at all of making the frame.

Despite being last for much of the race, with jockey Davy Russel at pains to keep him motivated, Lord Windermere stayed in contention going into the final stages of the race. A titanic battle up the hill between him, On His Own (16/1) and The Giant Bolster(14/1) so a three-way finish which nobody had anticipated.

A steward’s enquiry ensued but the first past the post Lord Windermere was awarded the race; in the process giving trainer Jim Culloty a first win in the race as a trainer and a fourth career win – he was Best Mate’s jockey on each occasion the famous stayer landed his hat-trick of Gold Cup wins.

6. Balko Des Flos – 2018 Ryanair Chase

The 2018 Festival largely played true to form. One of the bigger shocks was that of Balko Des Flos lowering the colours of heavy 8/11 favourite Un De Sceaux in the Ryanair Chase.

Henry De Bromhead’s charge tracked the well fancied favourite throughout before edging up on Un De Sceax four out. Still on the bridle under the guidance of an oh so confident Davy Russell, the pair jumped alongside Paul Townend three from home.

The Galway Plate winner then breezed into the lead with two furlongs remaining. Still cruising he powered clear of the field marking his first Grade 1 win on British soil and a famous upset for the Cheltenham public.

Disagree with the order above? Reorder them below yourself and lets discover the true consensus!