In an ideal world, the favourites win every race at the Cheltenham Festival and the punters leave Prestbury Park quids in after a fantastic four-day meeting. However, the harsh reality is that there is always going to be a fair share of shock winners at the Festival — proving to be a thorn in the side of those who love to dip their toe in the waters of the Cheltenham betting markets.
Last year’s behind-closed-doors meeting was certainly no exception, with plenty of horses winning from longer odds over the course of the week — including in some of the biggest races, like Flooring Porter’s unlikely success in the Stayers’ Hurdle from 12/1. So, as we expect more of the same later this month, let’s cast our minds back to some of last year’s shock winners. Read on to find out more!
Jeff Kidder: 80/1 – Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle
The biggest Festival winner in 30 years, Jeff Kidder certainly wasn’t kidding around in the Grade 3 Juvenile Hurdle. At mammoth odds of 80/1, the Noel Meade-trained horse certainly wouldn’t have been well backed by the punters prior to the two-mile, half-a-furlong race.
But the longshot rallied into contention approaching the last and took the lead from favourite Saint Sam, ridden by Paul Townend and trained by Willie Mullins, in the final 110yards and stormed home two lengths clear to secure the £33,762-winning prize purse – ripping up virtually everyone’s bet slips.
Heaven Help Us: 33/1 – Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle
Day two started perfectly for the bettors, with short-priced favourites Bob Olinger and Monkfish both romping home in the opening Grade 1 novices’ races, but Heaven Help Us gave the bookies some room to breathe after the Coral Cup — winning the Grade 3 Handicap Hurdle from 33/1.
It proved to be a comfortable victory as well, with the Paul Hennessy-trained horse making all the running and opening up a nine-length lead ahead of the last – which he maintained on the run-in to breeze home ahead of the Nicky Henderson-trained Craigneiche.
Belfast Banter: 33/1 – County Handicap Hurdle
A horse that must have been thoroughly well backed on the other side of the Irish Sea, Belfast Banter won the Grade 3 County Handicap Hurdle from 33/1 in the second race of the Gold Cup Day card.
Trained by Peter Fahey, the then six-year-old edged right on the run-in, but led inside the final 110yards, holding on to beat Petit Mouchior, a 22/1 shot, and Milkwood, further out at 28/1, in a thrilling finish. It wasn’t the only upset on the final day though, as Minella Indo won the showpiece race against all expectations in the Gold Cup tips.
Vintage Clouds: 28/1 – Ultima Handicap Chase
Back to day one now, and Jeff Kidder wasn’t the only outsider to win, causing a stir on Champions Day – with Vintage Clouds winning the Grade 3 Ultima Handicap Chase. Not as big of a shock at 28/1, the Sue Smith-trained veteran showed up his younger competitors – opening up a length advantage at the last and ridden clear on the run-in to win by over five lengths clear of the favourite Happygolucky. At 11 years old, it is certainly a vintage display from Vintage Clouds.