One of the funny things that happens in betting is when the best of the best come together and compete against one another.
There will always be jollies and market principles that dominate the betting market no matter what, but when you have a strong, deep field it affords punters a chance to secure long odds on quality operators with no forlorn hope.
Take the golf majors, for example. These fields are so stacked with talent that it’s pretty straightforward to back decent players at odds of 50/1 or longer. The Masters ante-post market in 2023, for example, featured Justin Rose at 66/1 – the Englishman, with six top-10 finishes at Augusta and who won on the PGA TOUR just two months before, being just one example of the value that’s available.
Another example would be the Grand National, which brings together the best steeplechasers in racing. The winner needs a slice of luck, perhaps, to make it around the Aintree track without falling, but since the turn of the new millennium there’s been three 50/1+ winners of the National – including 2022’s Noble Yeats – and six at 33/1 or longer. Opportunity knocks for punters….
The same rules can be applied at the Cheltenham Festival. The best chasers, stayers and hurdlers meet at Prestbury Park for the annual showpiece, and while the betting money tends to get pumped into those at the head of the respective markets, there’s still a catalogue of 50/1 or longer winners each year.
In fact, it’s a rarity when there isn’t.
So which editions of the Cheltenham Festival have had a 50/1+ winner?
|Commander of Fleet||Coral Cup||50/1|
There’s a Grand National style vibe to the Coral Cup at the Cheltenham Festival.
Okay, so it’s not contested over a mammoth four-mile trip, but the field size is typically large – often 25 horses or more, and that can make for a rather unpredictable renewal.
Between 2012 and 2021, there were six winners at 16/1 or longer and three at 28/1+. And that fine record was extended in 2022 by Commander of Fleet’s shock victory.
Gordon Elliott’s horse outlasted the field in what was the third-slowest edition of the Coral Cup since 1990 – a lack of pace in the race is always going to suit the underdogs more than the strongest in the field.
|Jeff Kidder||Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle||80/1|
If attempting to find a longshot winner or two is your thing, the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle is an excellent starting point.
This race has not been kind to favourites in the past, and since 2012 only one market principle has gone on to win.
In the past decade, winners of the Boodles have been priced at odds including 25, 33/1 (three times) and 40/1, while Jeff Kidder defied the odds (literally) to win at 80/1 for Noel Meade in 2021.
|Lisnagar Oscar||Stayers’ Hurdle||50/1|
|It Came to Pass||St James’s Place Hunter Chase||66/1|
Rebecca Curtis’ nine-year-old only won three of his 25 races – but his best day on the track netted connections a cool £180,000 in prize money.
It’s not a big surprise that the bookies didn’t fancy Lisnagar Oscar for the 2020 Stayers’ Hurdle given his track record, but with odds-on favourite Paisley Park floundering there was an opportunity for another horse to strike.
And strike Lisnagar Oscar did. Despite lacking a winning CV, the Racing for Fun steed led off the final bend and stayed on manfully up the Prestbury Park hill to secure a rather unlikely 50/1 triumph.
The Friday of the 2020 Festival would see an even longer-odds winner, with It Came to Pass – with Maxine O’Sullivan in the saddle – prevailing as a veritable 66/1 no-hoper in the St James’s Place Hunter Chase.
|Croco Bay||Grand Annual||66/1|
|Eglantine Du Seuil||Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle||50/1|
|Minella Indo||Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle||50/1|
Although well-established at his Oxfordshire yard, trainer Ben Case isn’t the most prolific winner at the top level.
So what a feeling it must have been when his horse Croco Bay, considered nothing more than a 66/1 longshot by the bookies, sailed home in the Grand Annual Challenge.
CROCO BAY and @kielanwoods, always handy in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup, fight gamely up the hill to keep Bun Doran at bay and win for owner Lady Jane Grosvenor and trainer @bencaseracing pic.twitter.com/SBGhpgjaKX
— Becky Bailey (@BecsBailey) March 17, 2019
He ran from the front throughout, stayed on well and just headed off 11/1 chance Ben Doran at the finishing line.
Just a day later, there was a second 50/1 winner at the Festival. Willie Mullins has enjoyed plenty of success in the Mares’ Novices’ Chase over the years, but even he must have been surprised that it was Eglantine Du Seuil – rather than Paul Nicholls’ 15/8 favourite Epatante – that took the spoils.
And to complete the 2019 year of the upset, 50/1 hopeful Minella Indo – who would go on to win the Gold Cup, no less – was partnered to victory in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle by regular jockey Rachael Blackmore.
2018 – None
And so the last time there wasn’t a 50/1+ winner at the Cheltenham Festival was back in 2018!