The Cheltenham Festival’s Biggest Shocks
From Douvan’s incomprehensible defeat in the Champion Chase to an astounding 100/1 Gold Cup winner in the shape of Norton’s Coin – The Cheltenham Festival has certainly seen its fair share of hair-raising moments.
We have chosen our five biggest surprises that left racegoers at Prestbury Park in awe as the unthinkable unfolded in front of their very eyes:
Buveur D’Air takes a tumble as Espoir D’Allen wins Champion Hurdle (2019)
Perhaps one of the biggest racing shocks within the past five years. Having won the Champion Hurdle in both 2017 and 2018, we all believed that Buveur D’Air was set to take the title for the third year running. However, what played out before our eyes was a very different outcome. As the horses approached flight number 3, Buveur D’Air took a tumble and brought down Sharjah in the process. Although Apples Jade and Melon were in the lead for the majority of the race, Espoir D’Allen unexpectedly took the win. his victory means he is only the second five year old to win the Champion Hurdle in the last 34 years.
Cue Card storms to shock victory in Weatherby’s Champion Bumper (2010)
Although there may have been bigger priced winners at the Festival than Cue Card, who obliged at 40/1, it cannot be said that any of them have gone further than the 2010 Champion Bumper winner to prove the bookmarker’s colossal error of judgment. Winning with ease by more than 8 lengths on the day, the 9-time Grade One winner, trained by the industrious Colin Tizzard, has garnered an outstanding record at the Cheltenham Festival, with other notable wins including the Ryanair Chase in 2013.
Douvan crashes to defeat in Queen Mother Champion Chase (2017)
Dubbed as one of the biggest shocks in Festival history, Douvan’s disastrous defeat in the 2017 Champion Chase is certain to still be fresh in the minds of racing enthusiasts. The 2/9 favourite, ridden by Ruby Walsh, jumped poorly throughout and was never once in contention, prompting trainer Willie Mullins to suggest that the 7-year-old may have pulled a muscle during the race. Now primed to face fierce rival, Altior, in the same competition this year, Mullins and co. will be eager to see a vast improvement.
100/1 shot Norton’s Coin astounds racegoers with Gold Cup win (1990)
Undoubtedly the pick of the bunch is Norton’s Coin’s unprecedented victory in the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup, in a race that saw the biggest priced winner in festival history. Owned and trained by Sirrell Griffiths, a Welsh dairy farmer with just three horses, the 100/1 stunned the racing community, fending off competition from odds-on favourite and reigning Gold Cup hero Desert Orchid, as well as Jenny Pitman’s Toby Tobias.
Arctic Kinsman stuns Cheltenham with Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (1994)
The 1994 festival kicked off in emphatic style when Messrs Twiston-Davies and combined with 50/1 outsider in the meeting’s opening race. Arctic Kinsman impressively went to the front four out and quickened clear on the run to the last to put 8 lengths into the 1998 Aintree Hurdle winning Pridewell. Twiston-Davies is now looking to the 2018 festival with much anticipation, with key runners, such as The New One looking to impress in the Sun Bets Stayers’ Hurdle.
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