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Cheltenham Festival memories - Six of the biggest-priced Cheltenham Festival winners in recent history

Countrywide Flame won the 2012 Triumph Hurdle as an unfancied 33/1 outsider.

There have been plenty of big-priced Cheltenham Festival winners in recent history, and we take a look back at some of the biggest names to have won at the Festival at huge odds!


The Cheltenham Festival has thrown up plenty of big-priced winners throughout the years, with unfancied outsiders defying their long odds to land Festival glory.

As most punters will testify, there is no such thing as a certainty in horse racing, despite what the odds might otherwise suggest, and especially in the National Hunt game the obstacles can present as much of a test as a horse’s rivals. 

There is always a chance – no matter how small – that an unfancied outsider can come home in front, and while the likes of Min, Douvan and Un De Sceaux are all the rage for the 2016 Festival, we look back at six big-priced winners of recent times who were largely unfancied in the betting but who galloped their way into the Cheltenham annals of history.

NORTON’S COIN – 1990 GOLD CUP


Perhaps the first horse to enter in peoples’ minds whenever the topic of Cheltenham Festival outsiders is broached, Sirrel Griffiths’ charge was considered a 100/1 no-hoper going up against the likes of Desert Orchid et al for the Blue Riband.

Griffiths, a permit-holder who had just three horses was turned into a racing celebrity overnight, having entered Norton’s Coin for the Gold Cup after missing the deadline for entries in a handicap contest on the same card.

On the morning of the Gold Cup, dairy farmer Griffiths had to do all of his regular farm work, including milk his herd of cows prior to setting off to Cheltenham Park with his apparent no-hoper. In fact though, Norton’s Coin had posted some solid form, albeit in lesser grade races, winning twice at Newbury and Cheltenham, and had a string of placed efforts in handicaps.

Although his level of form was a fair way below that of the likes of Desert Orchid and Cavvies Clown, he was always travelling well in the hands of Graham McCourt and battled well up the run-in to score by three-parts of a length from Toby Tobias in second, with Desert Orchid back in third.

The following season was largely forgettable though, where he fell twice from four starts, and he fell again when in defence of his Gold Cup crown, getting no further than the third fence. 

He bounced back though in the last part of the season, and went close at Aintree in April to winning the Martell Cup, before beating Waterloo Boy back at Cheltenham to land the Silver Trophy Chase. That was to be his last win though, and he endured a barren spell after that success lasting almost three years.



HARDY EUSTACE – 2004 CHAMPION HURDLE (33/1)


It is perhaps hard to imagine that a multiple Grade One hurdles winner can go off at such a big price for a race like the Champion Hurdle, but it was the case with Dessie Hughes’ Hardy Eustace, who had won the Royal Bond Hurdle at Punchestown, and the Royal and Sun Alliance Novices’ Hurdle at the 2003 Cheltenham Festival in the year preceding his Champion Hurdle success.

Winless until March, having posted perhaps his best effort at Gowran Park in the Red Mills Trial when finishing runner-up behind Georges Girl, the Archway gelding had previously filled the same position behind Crystal D’Ainay in the Cleeve Hurdle, he headed to Cheltenham and the Champion Hurdle where he came up against hot favourite Rooster Booster  and Paul Nicholls’ Rigmarole amongst others.

Making virtually every yard of the running in first-time blinkers, he had plenty in reserve to readily see off Philip Hobbs’ defending champion when Rooster Booster loomed upsides at the last, and he quickly reasserted to come home five lengths clear.

He beat the same rival again at Punchestown the following month, and he was produced at his peak twelve months later to follow up his Champion Hurdle title with a successful defence, beating Harchibald by a neck.

He wasn’t 33/1 on that occasion though, returning as a 7/2 joint-favourite; and his love affair with Prestbury Park continued when he produced a battling display to finish third in the 2006 renewal behind Brave Inca, and fourth to Sublimity in 2007.

Well-beaten in the 2008 World Hurdle, he had one last crack at the Champion Hurdle in 2009, but his old legs weren’t up to the task following a relatively poor season despite a win on his seasonal debut, and he trailed in a well-beaten ninth behind Punjabi.


Hardy Eustace won the first of his two Champion Hurdle successes at an unfancied 33/1.


EBAZIYAN – 2007 SUPREME NOVICES’ HURDLE (40/1)


Willie Mullins’ charge was a fair sort on the flat, winning at Tipperary and Gowran Park, and after a win in a maiden hurdle at Thurles in the February, the County Carlow trainer send the Daylami gelding into the white-hot heat of Cheltenham where he was expected to be a lamb to the slaughter behind the formidable Amaretto Rose.

Ruby Walsh and Granit Jack had cut out much of the running, and led the field over the second last. However, Nicky Henderson’s favourite was seemingly cruising in the leader’s slipstream and looked sure to win.

Meanwhile, Davy Condon on the 40/1 Ebaziyan was still on the steel, and despite a mistake two out quickly picked up again and took up the running over the last before powering up the hill to record a three length winning margin over the Paul Nicholls-trained Granit Jack.

A noticeable hush descended on Prestbury Park as the unfancied grey gelding crossed the line in front to give Willie Mullins a tenth Festival winner. Afterwards Mullins commented that he would have been happy to have seen his charge finish in the first six, and that he hadn’t fancied him to come out on top.

The Daylami gelding never quite built on that success after though, winning just twice more in his career in lesser events at Punchestown and Leopardstown.


Ebaziyan (green colours) was a surprise winner of the 2007 Supreme Novices' Hurdle, winning at 40/1.

CUE CARD – 2010 CHAMPION BUMPER (40/1)


Still plying his trade today at the highest level, and fancied for the 2016 Cheltenham Gold Cup, Colin Tizzard’s charge came into the Champion Bumper on the back of a win at Fontwell when beating Caught By Witness by six lengths.

Despite looking ill at ease there, he won well at the Sussex venue; but the King’s Theatre gelding looked to face a very stiff task thrown into the Champion Bumper against the likes of Al Ferof and the expensive Shot From The Hip who had been sent off a strong 3/1 favourite for Edward O’Grady.

Taking a fierce early tug, he eventually settled towards the back of the pack, and travelling ominously well at half-way he made his move turning back towards home and down the hill. With Al Ferof still travelling well in front, Cue Card was in the perfect position just behind, and swinging into the straight and heading towards the stiff uphill climb jockey Joe Tizzard pressed the button and the outcome was swiftly settled in just a few strides.

Powering clear, the King’s Theatre gelding came home an impressive eight lengths winner over Al Ferof and others, stamping his class on a strong field; and he continues today to do so today.


Cue Card had had just one prior run in a bumper at Fontwell when romping to Champion Bumper success at 40/1!

COUNTRYWIDE FLAME – 2012 TRIUMPH HURDLE (33/1)


Formerly only a fair sort on the flat, achieving a rating of 72 when registering his sixth career win on the level at Redcar in October 2011, John Quinn’s Haafhd gelding didn’t look an obvious sort to take on a hurdles career; however he relished the switch and quickly made up into a very useful performer over timber.

A winner on his hurdles debut in July 2011 at Market Rasen, he was beaten only a half-length on his next outing over timber in a Listed race at Wetherby later than year, but he got off the mark with an impressive success over Eagle Rock at Sedgefield, winning by eight lengths; and upped to Grade One company to contest a juvenilies’ contest at Sandown, he served real notice of his undoubted class when finishing runner-up behind Hollow Tree.

Fancied to go one better at Leopardstown next time, he could only manage third to Hisaabaat, and with that rival in opposition at Cheltenham in the Triumph Hurdle alongside the likes of Grumeti, Balder Succes and Pearl Swan in an open renewal, he was largely overlooked by punters.

The stiffer nature of Cheltenham seemed to draw out his best though, and after looking outpaced and beaten approaching the second-last, Dougie Costello galvanised the Haafhd gelding into another effort, and the pair stayed on resolutely to lead jumping the last and come clear away from rivals as they climbed the hill to the finish.

Beaten by Grumeti next time at Aintree, John Quinn’s star wiyld return to win on the flat at Chepstow off 84, and went agonisingly close in the Cesarewitch when beaten only a half-length behind Aaim To Prosper, before resuming his hurdles career.

A winner of the Fighting Fifth on his debut that seson, he chased home Hurricane Fly in the 2013 Champion Hurdle, eventually finishing third. Twop disappointing runs upped in trip at Aintree over hurdles, and back on the flat followed, but after being found to be suffering from a degenerative bone disease he was retired aged just five years old and his undoubted star potential was taken away from the game before he ultimately succumbed to the disease and was sadly put to sleep.


Countrywide Flame (right, blue cap) was a gutsy winner of the 2012 Triumph Hurdle.

WESTERN WARHORSE – 2014 ARKLE CHALLENGE TROPHY (33/1)


David Pipe’s Westerner gelding was given little hope of triumph when lining up to contest the Arkle against the likes of Champagne Fever, Trifolium, Dodging Bullets and Rock On Ruby, but he shocked the racing world with a hugely game display to land the race on the finish line.

A point-to-point winner in Ireland, he had fallen on his hurdles debut at Ffos Las, but bounced back to win at Chepstow, beating Hold Court by ten lengths.

However, he was well beaten on both subsequent starts over hurdles before he tried his hand at fences, beating the smart Victor Hewgo at Doncaster in January 2014.

All his runs had come over considerably further distances than the Arkle, and most expected the Westerner gelding to lack the speed of the top two-milers, while his form fell some way short of the best of the contenders.

Having set the early running, he soon looked to be in trouble and under pressure jumping four out, and the decision to drop him in distance looked to have backfired; however, the race had been run at a furious gallop, and his stamina for further began to kick in.

Staying on from the third-last, he produced a withering late run from the final fence to chase down and pass Champagne Fever, who had made most of the running and had set sail for home, eventually getting his head in front on the line when it mattered most to record a narrow verdict over Willie Mullins’ charge.

The win shocked both trainer and jockey, neither of whom expected such a result. That effort took a lot from him though, and he was disappointing on his next outing at Aintree when well beaten behind Uxizandre in the Manifesto Chase, which was his last run to date and he hasn’t been seen out since. 


Western Warhorse' surprise Arkle victory shocked even trainer David Pipe and jockey Tom Scudamore.

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Cheltenham Festival memories - Six of the biggest-priced Cheltenham Festival winners in recent history

There have been plenty of big-priced Cheltenham Festival winners in recent history, and we take a look back at some of the biggest names to have won at the Festival at huge odds!

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