In recent years, favourites, especially in non handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival have had an excellent record. There have however been some monumental shocks down the years, primarily in the handicaps but on occasion there have been punters left scratching their heads over the Championship races as well. No need to scratch your heads, we have done the study and the hard work for 2017, our Cheltenham Festival tips are on the site now! Let’s take a look at 5 of the biggest shocks at the Cheltenham Festival.
There really is nowhere else we could possibly start! Trained by Welsh dairy farmer Sirrell Griffiths, he won the Festival Blue Riband despite the majority of punters giving him next to no chance. He had begun the season trailing home last in the King George before a trip to Ascot to run over two miles where beating just the one home. 2nd and 3rd in a pair of handicaps were hardly earth shattering but on the day, he travelled well under Graham McCourt before digging deep up the hill to see off the challenge of Toby Tobias with the darling of the 1980’s jumping scene Desert Orchid back in 3rd to create what is probably the biggest shock that the Cheltenham Festival has ever seen.
Just a year earlier than Norton’s Coin, punters were again left wondering if they were looking at their racecards upside down. Beech Road had been a solid handicap hurdler the season before but it was over fences that connections felt that his future lay. A pair of incompletions in novice chases saw them change their mind but even a wide margin win in Fontwell’s National Spirit Hurdle failed to capture the imagination of the public. The majority of the field were in trouble as they turned for home, Richard Guest with a sling shot move off the last bend, the horse whinged the last and they were never for catching up the hill. The well supported favourite who would win the race the next season was a grey by the name of Kribensis, owned by Godolphin maestro Sheik Mohammed and trained by Michael Stoute! 1989 may have been a great vintage for Chateau Latour but not so much for punters in the Champion Hurdle. Relive Beech Road winning below.
Very much a story of what could have been. Successful on his debut, subsequent efforts including behind the Cheltenham runner up Golden Alpha at Newbury were nothing like to the same level. Something sparked him on the day however as heavily backed Irish favourite Biliverdin failed to produce anything like punters were expecting, Mark Pitman’s charge roared up the hill to pick up the running close home and score by a little over a length. While this victory was a shock to many, a return win the following year in the Neptune was the complete opposite, winning his 6th hurdle on the bounce at odds of 5/4, the world looked at his feet but sadly that was to be the last time that he graced a race with continual problems eventually leading to his retirement.
The horse credited with the first Cheltenham Festival success for a certain Richard Johnson is the shortest price of our shock list but in topping Deano’s Beano and Le Coudray, it was a surprise of the highest order. Having missed the entire previous campaign with an injury, the horse came back in Ascot’s Long Walk hurdle beating just a single rival home before a trip to the Cleeve Hurdle saw him finish 5th but a huge 50 lengths off the winner. Arriving at the Festival on the back of a runner up effort in the Rendlesham at Kempton, he was under the pump a long way from home but one of the rides of the season from Johnson saw him get up in the shadow of the post, nailing Le Coudray, much to the delight of the bookies. Get another look at Richard Johnson’s inaugural Festival winner below.
We end with another bumper winner who was allowed to go off at, in hindsight, crazy odds! While Mister McGoldrick and Carrickboy have both caused shocks in the Plate in recent years at 66/1 and 50/1 respectively, we expect those in handicaps. Very few could have expected another dairy farmer, Colin Tizzard this time, to win the toughest bumper of the year with a horse who had just a 6/1 victory in a Fontwell bumper to his credit coming in. He always travelled well, cutting through the field like a hot knife through butter to tank into the lead just after the home turn. From there it was only a matter of how far as he put 8 lengths between himself and the smart Al Ferof in 2nd with a further 8 lengths back to the 3rd. Standing in the crowd that day, starring fruitlessly at the racecard for a clue as to how he had done that as others just shook their head in disbelief, little did anyone know just who we had witnessed announcing himself on the scene.
There are sure to be shocks in the handicaps at the Festival this year, we pride ourselves on being able to pick out big priced winners with our free horse racing tips including a 66/1 winner already this March!