The Longest Priced Winners in Gold Cup History
This week sees the Cheltenham Festival – one of the most eagerly-awaited events in the horse racing calendar – take place with the second hottest prize in racing, the Gold Cup, contested on Friday.
Aside from the Grand National, this is racing’s most lucrative race; for both the trainers involved and the bookmakers. The festival as a whole will see more than £500 million staked, and it’s the Gold Cup which really gets punters excited – and with its rich history for long-priced winners, who can blame them.
Indeed, in 86 runnings of the race only 29 favourites have won. This is perhaps why the bookies enjoy it so much too.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the longest-priced winners in the race’s extensive heritage:
Norton’s Coin (100/1)
If any punters had had the foresight to back Norton’s Coin in 1990, it’s presumably a story they haven’t tired of telling people to this very day.
The nine-year-old had endured something of an unremarkable career up to that point; as its pre-race price of 100/1 testified. It was trained by Sirrel Griffiths, a Welsh farmer who kept three horses amongst his herd of cows. One, Grove Chance, a mare who Griffiths had purchased for under £500, gave birth to Norton’s Coin – an unspectacular chaser who was coming up to the end of its racing journey.
Very few would have predicted the outcome of that 1990 Gold Cup then – and very few did either; instead plumping for favourite Desert Orchid, whose odds had tumbled in the paddock to 8/11.
What followed was an incredible rags to riches story; a victory for the underdog, or underhorse if you will. And it was a pretty nice result for the bookmakers, too.
L’Escargot went on to enjoy an illustrious career as a steeplechaser, but in 1970 was considered to have little chance of entering the winner’s enclosure as a sprightly seven-year-old.
Onlookers were left dumbfounded then when the Irish gelding romped home with plenty left in the tank. At 33/1 L’Escargot remains the second longest-priced winner of the Gold Cup in history.
The 1970 triumph was just the beginning, however. The chaser would go on to win the Gold Cup the following year too, with the same team of Tommy Carberry (jockey), Dan Moore (trainer) and Raymond Guest (owner) presiding over the victory.
Perhaps more famously, L’Escargot would be the horse to end Red Rum’s two-race winning streak at the Grand National in 1975.
Cool Dawn (25/1)
Cool Dawn was a steady National Hunt chaser who made a living out of winning relatively minor point-to-point meetings at various outpoints on the road map of racing.
When jockey Andrew Thornton took over the reins, the ten-year-old started to enjoy some more success; including winning the incredibly-named OK Soil Remediation Ltd Handicap Chase. However, just as he was starting to build momentum, a bad run in his pre-Cheltenham outing seemed to put pay to any chances. Thus, a price of 25/1 looked fair enough.
Cue mass surprise when Cool Dawn led from the starter’s pistol to the finishing tape of the 1998 race; only briefly troubled by Strong Promise and favourite Dorans Pride.
Lord Windermere (20/1)
As recently as 2014 has a long-priced outsider taken the top prize, as Lord Windermere powered home up the final straight in one of the most controversial finishes to a Gold Cup in the race’s history.
It shouldn’t have come as a shock, however, as the horse comes from such good stock - sired as it is by Oscar, a proud parent of many a National Hunt winner. Still, it set off from the stalls at 20/1, with more fancied chasers such as Bob’s Worth, Last Instalment and Triolo D’Alene more highly-fancied in the pre-race market.
In textbook ‘Hare & Tortoise’ fashion, Lord Windermere ran from the back of the field for much of the race, and at one point he was a few lengths behind the rest of the chasing pack.
As the field turned into the last straight Lord Windermere was still back in eighth, but somehow managed to claw its way back into the reckoning. In a lively finale, he just managed to pip On My Own by a short head – and took his place in the pantheon of generously-priced Gold Cup winners.
So when you’re placing your bets on Friday morning, don’t be so hasty to dismiss the horses listed at the bottom of the bookmakers’ pile.