While there are many things that we readily associate with the Cheltenham – the Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle, the healthy Irish contingent, the endless ales – it’s easy to overlook the number of outside chances that have secured a place in the winner’s circle. In the last decade alone, the festival has seen thoroughbreds break the line first despite odds so long, you’d think even placing would be a pipe dream. Take Rebecca Curtis’s Irish Cavalier which overcame a pricing of 66/1 to triumph in the 2015 Close Brothers’ Handicap Chase.
Even Cheltenham’s showpiece events have been gate-crashed by outsiders. From the Nicky Henderson-owned 22/1 shot Punjabi triumphing in the 2009 Champion Hurdle to Jim Culloty’s Lady Windermere capturing the 2014 Gold Cup at 20/1 – the size of the prize doesn’t mean it’s out of the reach of the also-ran.
Head further back in time and you’ll find even bigger surprises. L’Escargot was one of the few horses to win both the Gold Cup and the Grand National, but its first Cheltenham victory came despite being the bookies all but writing him off as a 33/1 shot. Put another way, when the 2017 Festival gets underway of 2017, don’t be surprised if at least one unfancied stead steals a place on top of the pile.
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