The Cheltenham Festival is one of the most important weeks on the calendar for any avid horse racing fan. Some of the greatest legends the sport has ever known have made their name at the iconic event and 2024 is shaping up to be another enthralling year for the famous meet. It is the pinnacle of the jumps season as jockeys’, trainers’ and owners’ entire campaigns are often centred around showing their best come March. Being the landmark occasion it is, punters from across the world flood into Gloucester in the hopes of winning big. Thousands each year set their sights on finding that one horse to upset the odds and bring home a healthy sum of money along with it. More often than not, their investment doesn’t have the fairytale ending, but every now and then an underdog emerges to shock the world. Here’s our look at some of the biggest priced winners in Cheltenham Festival history.
Norton’s Coin – 100/1
Well start our list off with the biggest of them all with Norton’s Coin in the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup. Billed as the shock of the century by many, few had anticipated the horse trained by Sirrell Griffiths to even finish in the top half, let alone win the whole race. Griffiths was thought to be treating this like a hobby having only had two more horses in his stable training leading up the event and yet Norton’s Coin, ridden by jockey Graham McCourt, managed to see off the competition. Stiff competition at that with favourite Desert Orchid priced at 8/1 to win outright before the race as reigning champion of the Gold Cup. It was a tight affair in the end with McCourt managing to nip into the lead at the finish to secure his and Norton Coin’s place in history as the longest odds and biggest priced winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. You can always get the best cheltenham betting offers to try backing one of these long priced horses.
Observer Corps – 66/1
The odds were enough to make this eventual win surprising, but the fact the horse hadn’t been on the track for 11 months leading into the 1989 Cathcart gives the victory legendary status in Cheltenham Festival history. Even if the horse had been racing, the odds beforehand wouldn’t have raised many eyebrows as the eight-year-old had failed to come anywhere near a win in his previous four races. Even trainer John Edwards wouldn’t have been too fussed by the bookies writing off Corps’ chances so you can only imagine the utter joy Edwards would’ve had watching the underdog stride out and win the Catchart by an astonishing eight lengths. A truly remarkable turnaround.
Minella Indo – 50/1
The most recent entry on our list may have been amongst the favourites to win the Gold Cup in recent years but four years ago few knew of his credentials to become a race winner in 2019. While this horse’s stamina is readily apparent now, the same could not have been said back in 2019. Leading up to the Albert Bartlett Novice Hurdle, Indo had failed to secure a win in three of his previous starts putting him further down the list of contenders with the bookies. While recent performances might suggest what unfolded next was fairly predictable, few if anybody could’ve anticipated that Minella Indo would win with a fairly commanding position of two lengths ahead of the nearest competitor. It was the shock of the week and earned him a place on our list.
Kirriemuir – 50/1
When Kirriemuir entered the Champion Hurdle in 1965, they were handed the biggest odds ever in the history of that race at 50/1. It was understandable given its performances to date and the competition on the track. Racing alongside fan-favourites such as National Spirit, Sir Ken and Hatton’s Grace it only made sense that nobody gave Kirriemuir much of a chance. So when he ended up sealing a stunning victory nobody could believe it, least of all trainer Fulke Walwyn. 58 years later, it still holds a place as one of the most stunning upsets in the history of the festival.
L’Escargot – 33/1
While this racehorse would later become famous for halting Red Rum’s bid for three consecutive Grand National wins, it was winning the 1970 Gold Cup where he truly made his name. While the horse achieved success in America in the year prior in 1969, few, for that reason, had heard much of L’Escargot leading up to the Cheltenham Gold Cup in the following year. As a result, he flew under the radar and was given the subsequent price of 33/1. Little was made of his chances before the race but as things got underway it became clear that the Dan Moore-trained star did not deserve the moniker of ‘outsider’. While the favourite Kinloch Brae fell out of contention, jockey Tommy Carberry managed to see off the competition and win by a length and a half. Bookies did not repeat their mistake the year after when he secured back-to-back Gold Cup triumphs, rightfully pricing L’Escargot at 7/2.