Five of the biggest Cheltenham shocks
To whet the appetite ahead of this year’s Cheltenham Festival, here we present five of the biggest shocks in Cheltenham history.
Monsignor wins The Champion Bumper in 1999
Monsignor was a 50/1 outsider with bookmaker William Hill ahead of the Cheltenham Champion Bumper in 1999, unfancied after a couple of below-par showings and viewed as something of a horse with wasted potential having originally been highly-touted, and victorious on his debut.
But with Mark Pitman in the saddle, the chestnut gelding produced on the day, stunning the heavily fancied Irish favourite Biliverdin and punters alike to score a shock win by just over a length. The victory ultimately made more sense in time however, as Monsignor would win the Royal and Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle the following year and then win the Neptune, his 6th hurdle on the bounce at odds of 5/4 with bookmakers in what sadly proved to be the horse’s final race before retirement.
Anzum wins the 1999 Stayers Hurdle
Anzum is the horse credited as being the first Cheltenham success for champion jockey Richard Johnson and it was ridden to victory in the festival’s 1999 Stayers Hurdle at long odds of 40/1 with bookmaker Hills.
The horse had missed the entire previous year with injury, but arrived at Cheltenham in ‘99 following a runner-up finish at Kempton. In the hurdle, he roared from a long way back in what was an incredible ride from Johnson that saw him pip Le Coudray, the strong favourite, at the post.
Beech Road wins the 1989 Champion Hurdle
Way back in 1989, Beech Road was a 50/1 outsider for The Champion Hurdle despite having been a solid handicap hurdler the season before. But ridden by Richard Guest, Tony Geake's seven-year-old won by two lengths from Celtic Chief, with 1988’s winner Celtic Shot coming in third place. The race favourite, 11/8 shot Kribensis, finished seventh which wouldn’t even make each-way.
Cue Card wins The Champion Bumper in 2010
Looking back at Cue Card’s odds for the 2010 Champion Bumper in hindsight, you can’t help thinking that the bookmakers must have been crazy. But before the bay gelding went on to establish a long and successful steeplechase career, as a four-year-old he was a 40/1 outsider to win his first high profile race.
Cue Card would go on to win in style, comfortably smashing the field by eight lengths to Al Ferof in second and a further eight back to third. It was the arrival of one of the British public’s most loved horses, and we know now that this race was Cue Card well-and-truly announcing himself on the scene.
Norton’s Coin wins the 1990 Gold Cup
The biggest shock that the Cheltenham Festival has ever seen? There really can only be one. Norton’s Coin, back in 1990, was 100/1 with bookies to win the big race, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, but did so in a seismic shock the likes of which will probably never be seen again.
Famously trained by a Welsh dairy farmer, Sirrell Griffiths, who only had two other horses in his stable, Norton’s Coin went on to win the festival’s marquee event despite literally being given no chance by anyone prior to the race.
He would win the race by three-quarters-of-a-length victory over Toby Tobias in second, with the popular favourite Desert Orchid failed to defend his title by finishing a further four lengths behind in third.
Favourites at Cheltenham Festival tend to have pretty exceptional record, but until recent years, that hadn’t always been the case. Tiger Roll - last year's winner - is heavily tipped by Cheltenham free bets 2019 sites to do the business again this year, and bookmakers like Ladbrokes are currently offering 20/1 with it being this far out.