Cheltenham’s Biggest Shocks: The Moments The Festival Delivered The Unexpected

The Cheltenham Festival was made for the underdog. A few days in mid-March where punters can bash the bookies and win a real prize pot.

Every year throws up a few surprises. However, a good number of them stand out more than others. We decided to take a look at the biggest Cheltenham shocks of all time…

The 100/1 Winner

Nothing gets bigger than a 100/1 Winner and in 1990 the Gold Cup welcomed exactly that.

Despite a strong field that included Desert Orchid, Norton’s Coin produced one of the fastest runs in history to write his name in the history books.

Everything about the result surprised the horse racing world. His trainer, Sirrel Griffiths, has very few hopes for his horse, in fact, he wasn’t even a full-time trainer.

The man was actually a farmer and before the journey to Cheltenham did all his usual chores including milking his cows.

Still, Norton’s Coin was in the mood to upset the applecart and he did it in true style with the most memorable of Gold Cup wins.

Here’s the race in full including the classic BBC sports opening logo from the 90s!

2004’s Hardy Champion Hurdle Win

There have been many wins at Cheltenham that have come in at the 33/1 mark, but few did it quite like Hardy Eustace in 2004.

Racing in the Champion Hurdle, the now lauded horse, was a rank outsider, coming in off the back of a series of average results.

He’d won the 2003 Royal & SunAlliance Novices Hurdle the previous year but it was expected he’d be more a contender for last place than first.

Jockey Conor O’Dwyer made the decision to go out in front early, with most of the crowd, and perhaps O’Dwyer himself, expecting him to wilt away as the race wore on.

It was the rest of the field, including favourite Rooster Booster, which wilted though and Hardy Eustace produced an incredible shock.

Where is he now? see the video below!

Cue Card’s Debut Sets The Tone

Cue Card was a Cheltenham mainstay and became one of the leading horses by 2017, but in 2010 it was a different story as the Colin Tizzard trained horse debuted as a four-year-old in the Champion Bumper.

He was placed in with a strong field but managed to show the class in which he’d show throughout his entire career to beat strong horses trained by the likes of Nicholls and Mullins to set the tone for what would be a fantastic Festival for the fantastic Cue Card.

Cue Card racing at Cheltenham

Richard Johnson Enjoys Outsider First Win

Cue Card wasn’t the only one to get his Cheltenham career going with a shock. Richard Johnson did exactly the same in 1999, riding a 40/1 shot to victory in the Stayers Hurdle.

Last year’s Gold Cup winner, Johnson was just getting his Cheltenham career going before the turn of the millennium and he wasn’t expected to cross the line first on Anzum and didn’t look like he would for the majority of the race.

Out in eighth with three hurdles to go, the horse opened up his legs and quickly began to take on the field. Passing major players like Le Coudray, he went on to beat Lady Rebecca by a nose, securing one of the best comebacks and biggest shocks in history.

Une Artiste Upsets The Odds To Secure Henderson Legacy

2012 welcomed a number of shocks at the festival. While Nicky Henderson has always been and remains to this day, one of the sport’s leading trainers, few expected anyone to secure four wins in a day. Henderson did it in style.

It was an underdog which secured the fest as well, as Une Artiste crossed the line in the Juvenile Handicap Hurdle as a huge outsider.

Une Artist a 33-1 winner in 2012


Priced at 40/1, the horse had to overcome the like of Kazlian and Edeymi, but his legs just continued to strengthen, coming from behind as the major runners ran out of steam in front.

It contributed to a record-breaking year for Henderson, who is still a force to be reckoned with to this day.

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