How punters fare overall at the Cheltenham Festival is largely dependent on how well the market leaders perform over the course of the week, with the raucous scenes in the winner’s enclosure following the success of a favourite a sure sign that the bookies may soon be emptying their satchels.
Then of course there are times when you can hear a pin drop as the winner crosses the line as punters try to figure out exactly what just happened…
We’ve got a host of Cheltenham Festival tips and previews to help you pick out some big-odds winners, and indeed information about the latest Cheltenham offers and free bets to help you stack the odds in your favour.
But without further ado, here’s our rundown of the five biggest shocks from the 10 most recent Cheltenham Festivals.
5. 2010 Racing Post Plate – Mister McGoldrick 66/1
In terms of his starting price, number five on our list is actually the biggest shock in any festival race over the past decade. Unlike the other entries on our list though, the victory of the Sue Smith trained 11 year old – in the race now known as the Brown & Merriebelle Advisory Plate – came in a handicap, and as we all know, strange things can happen when it comes to Cheltenham Festival handicaps.
Hailed as little more than a Wetherby specialist, unlikely to appreciate the switch back to Cheltenham’s undulations, Mister McGoldrick was the outsider of 22 when the field went to post for this one.
Outsider or not, there was no fluke about this, as Dominic Elsworth drove his mount to a 13 length success. For those willing to look a little further back through the form book, Mister McGoldrick did have a little bit of previous at the Cheltenham Festival, having finished third in the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 2006.
4. 2017 Queen Mother Champion Chase – Special Tiara 11/1
From the biggest priced runner on our list, to the shortest, the shock here was not so much that Special Tiara won the race; the jaw-dropping aspect was what became of the favourite– and shortest priced runner of the entire 2017 Festival – Douvan.
Arriving on a 14-race winning streak, Douvan was sent off at odds of just 2/9 to win the Champion Chase and thoroughly expected to turn this into a procession. The writing was on the wall a long way from home though for those to have taken the plunge at such short odds, as Douvan produced a laboured display in seventh.
As opposed to the anticipated one-horse race, we were instead treated to one of the most thrilling finishes of the Festival as two-time third placed finisher in the race, Special Tiara, clung on by a head from Fox Norton.
3. 2014 Gold Cup – Lord Windermere – 20/1
Speaking of exciting finishes, the climax to the 2014 Gold Cup is tough to beat when it comes to excitement and drama, with just 1 ¾l separating the first four home.
The vast majority of the talk in the build-up centred around the defending champion and 6/4 favourite, Bobsworth and Paul Nicholl’s King George hero, Silviniaco Conti. All looked to be going as predicted approaching the last with the two main protagonists well to the fore and looking set to duel it out. Following the final flight though the complexion of the race changed dramatically, as first Bobsworth wilted under the strain, and then Silvinaco Conti began to wander all over the track on the run in. This was to be a race for the closers, as On His Own, The Giant Bolster and Lord Windermere finished in turbo charged fashion.
When the verdict came it was Jim Culloty – who won the race three times as a jockey aboard Best Mate – who was celebrating as his Lord Windermere got up to win by a short head.
2. 2010 Champion Bumper – Cue Card 40/1
Hard to believe now, but Cue Card – now a nine time Grade 1 winner, and one of the most popular horses in training – really was sent off at a massive 40/1 ahead of the 2010 Champion Bumper.
Having won his only previous start by an easy six lengths, there was no good reason for Colin Tizzard’s runner to start at such a big price. Easy to say now of course. With the limited form on offer, the Bumper is however traditionally one of the tougher Festival races to assess, and punters simply weighed the Irish form of the likes of market leader, Shot From The Hip more highly, leaving Cue Card largely forgotten in the market.
Given what we know now, it comes as no surprise that Cue Card proved much too good for his rivals, but it certainly drew a few gasps from the crowd on the day, as he simply pulverised the opposition by a thumping eight lengths.
1. 2014 Arkle Chase – Western Warhorse 33/1
Whereas Cue Card undoubtedly has scaled the heights following his debut Cheltenham Festival success, the same certainly can’t be said for all Festival winners. Take for example David Pipe’s, Western Warhorse.
Headed into the 2014 Arkle on the back of a narrow – and clinging on – win in a Class 3 Novice contest at Doncaster, the general consensus was that he was there to simply make up the numbers. With the likes of Champion Hurdler, Rock On Ruby, future Champion Chaser, Dodging Bullets and Champion Bumper and Supreme Novice’s Hurdle winner, Champagne Fever amongst the opposition, its hard to argue with that assessment even now.
He only made it the track once more in his career, when beaten out of sight at Aintree, but on that day in March he was too good for them all, getting up in the dying strides to win by a head from joint favourite, Champagne Fever. No fizz for backers of the jolly, but no doubt a few temperatures did rise as punters tried to work this one out.