The Cheltenham Festival is the pinnacle of the jumps season, Entire campaigns are build around peaking in March and connections have been known to plot their charges up to perfection. We have our Cheltenham Festival Tips taking shape on the site and with our Cheltenham Gold Cup tip already backed from 12/1 when we put the tip up into a best priced 4/1, it seems an apt time to look at 5 of the biggest recent gambles at the Cheltenham Festival.
2012 – Coral Cup – Son Of Flicka
Trained by Donald McCain and owned by Dubai businessman Phil Williams, the eight year old was driven up the hill by Jason Maguire to win £900,000 in bets for the successful owner. 66/1 for the race when betting opened, he was backed all rates down to an starting price of 16/1 to land a monster punt. It was something of a mission of reclamation after Son Of Flicka had just been grabbed in the shadow of the post in the previous year’s Martin Pipe Conditionals Hurdle. Sir Des Champs was the horse to beat him on that occasion for the Giggingstown operation with owner Williams begrudgingly congratulating Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary. He noted afterwards “I said to him that it must have been the first time I know that he has ever organised anything to turn up in the right place at the right time.” Watch Son Of Flicka win the 2012 Coral Cup below.
2006 County Hurdle – Desert Quest
Harry Findlay is a name well known to racing fans as the owner of the much loved Gold Cup winner, Denman. Findlay won in the region of 600K when his “tank” won the Blue Riband but a handicap plot in 2006 saw him win nearly a million pounds! A progressive handicapper, he had won at Newbury in a Class 3 less than a fortnight before, arriving with just a four pound penalty. Ruby Walsh always looked confident, creeping closer rounding the home turn, pressing the button on the run-in, the response was smart, bounding up the hill to win by two and a half lengths but value for so much more. While Desert Quest would never get anything like the same following that Denman was to garner in years to come, the horse firmly put the Findlay name into racegoers minds.
2012 Conor Murphy
We’ve all had the dream, a massive accumulator win, setting us up in the lifestyle we want for life. For most of us they will forever be pipe dreams but for Conor Murphy who has now set up as a trainer in the United States, it was reality. Bookmakers bet365 will have been glad of their 1 million maximum liability on horse racing when Irishman Murphy struck his bet in November 2011. Working for Nicky Henderson at the time, he placed a £50 accumulator on 5 of the yards horses for the festival. Sprinter Sacre at 6/1 for the Arkle, 12/1 Simonsig in the Neptune, Bob’s Worth was 6/1 for the RSA, 8/1 Finian’s Rainbow in the Champion Chase and finally Riverside Theatre at 10/1 in the Ryanair formed the bet that would have paid more than 3.51 million with no maximum liability. Afterwards Murphy said he would never place another bet and who can blame him? This was a once in a lifetime type of bet. Sprinter Sacre will always be fondly remembered by racegoers, relive his 2012 Arkle triumph below.
1991 Supreme Hurdle – Destriero
Seen just the once over hurdles prior to Cheltenham, when triumphant at Leopardstown on Boxing Day 1990. Owner Noel Furlong famously said after the race “We didn’t run him after Christmas as we didn’t want to end up getting 2-1 instead of 6-1,” As huge of a gamble as this was, and it’s been rumoured to have been worth anywhere up to 2 million to connections, it was only half the story. Connections also had The Illiad later that afternoon in the Champion Hurdle in doubles. Luckily for the bookies, he was unplaced in the day 1 feature but even the single alone has gone down in folklore as one of the biggest gambles seen at the Festival.
2006 JP McManus
2006 was a rough year for bookies at the Festival. Not only did Harry Findlay take them for seven figures in the County Hurdle, the fearless JP McManus haunted the dreams of legendary Scottish bookmaker, Freddie Williams. It wouldn’t be right to look at the biggest gambles at the Cheltenham Festival without discussing the man whose famous green and gold hoops have become synonymous with success and on the Thursday of the 2006 meeting, Reveillez landed a monster punt in the opening Jewson novices chase (JLT.) There are many tales in Cheltenham folklore, mentioning money being carried round in bin bags but after a bet of £100,000 to win on his horse at odds of 6/1, McManus could be forgiven if he had, had to hire a articulated lorry to collect his cash from the track. In typical McManus fashion, when asked afterwards, he simply said in his unmistakable soft lilt “I couldn’t let him run loose at 6/1!” Sadly for Williams, McManus wasn’t finished, staking £500 each way on 50/1 outsider, Kadoun, in the Pertemps Final to relieve Williams of another £325,000, winning the ultra competitive handicap despite a blunder at the final flight.
Don’t miss our free horse racing tips daily during the Cheltenham Festival. Nearly £2,500 in profit to tracked stakes already in March, followers have been in clover and will be looking forward to the meeting of the year!