Biggest Cheltenham Festival Upsets Down the Years

Cheltenham Stand
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Special Tiara - Champion Chase, 2017

This race was all about Douvan, who was sent off as 2/9 favourite for Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, but the already two-time festival winner never travelled or jumped with any fluency and weakened out of the race quickly.

Douvan’s misfortune was Special Tiara’s gain as Henry De Bromhead’s charge just held on for the strong running Fox Norton to win the race at 11/1.

Odds-wise, Special Tiara wasn’t the biggest price winner of a race at Cheltenham, but the upset was in Douvan, who at 2/9 was one of the shortest price favourites to ever run at the Cheltenham Festival and the result was a crushing one for punters, with Douvan no doubt in many an accumulator that week.


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Cue Card - Champion Bumper, 2010

With his exploits in his career after this, it was no surprise to see Cue Card win the 2010 Champion Bumper, however, at the time it was a major upset as Colin Tizzard’s horse returned at huge odds of 40/1.

The son of Kings Theatre came into the race off the back of just one run, which was a victory in a modest Fontwell bumper, and it is fair to say at the time no one knew the ability this horse had.

Not only did Cue Card win but he won emphatically, sliding through the field, and going clear the furlong pole, winning decisively by eight lengths, beating the subsequent 2011 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner, Al Ferof.

Norton’s Coin - Gold Cup, 1990

Perhaps the biggest shock in Cheltenham Festival history came in the biggest race of them all, as the 100/1 shot Norton’s Coin was victorious and became and remains the biggest priced winner in Cheltenham Festival history.

Not only was the shock of the price, but he also fended off odds on favourite and regaining champion, Desert Orchid, to deliver the historic victory. Norton’s Coin’s success was so big due to his trainer, Sirrell Griffiths, who also owned the horse, as at the time, Griffiths was a Welsh dairy farmer and only trained three horses so was hardly a household name, but he delivered on the biggest stage of them all.

Politologue - Champion Chase, 2020

The late withdrawals of both Altior and Chacun Pour Soi meant what looked a race of the ages became what seemed a walkover for Defi Du Seuil, who went off a short 2/5 to give Phillip Hobbs victory.

The favourite, however, never fired, as his jumping went to pot and never travelled with any efficiency as was beaten over 12 lengths into fourth. Defi Du Seuil’s performance came as a shock to many when seemingly handed the race and the odds reflected that however Politlouge, who had finished behind him twice that season was given a great front running ride from Harry Skelton and was not for catching.

A small field saw Politologue return at 6/1 but shockwaves were sent through the racing world with Defi Su Seuil’s run.

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Arctic Kinsman - Citroen Supreme Novices' Hurdle, 1994

Punters always want to get off the mark for the festival with a winner in the first but there was none of that in the 1994 Supreme Novices’ Hurdle as Nigel Twiston Davies claimed the race with a 50/1 shock in Arctic Kinsman. Not fancied by many, the 50/1 shot went to the front in the back straight and never seemed in trouble, travelling, and jumping well.

He kicked clear at the last and was away and gone, winning by over eight lengths and began the festival with a shock.

Joes Edge - Ultima Handicap Chase, 2007

Joes Edge was a day one surprise to many as Davy Russell lifted Ferdy Murphy’s 10-year-old over the line to land the Ultima at the huge odds of 50/1.

The horse was still far behind approaching the last and seemingly beaten however Russell threw everything at his mount and Joes Edge stormed up Cheltenham Hill.

Not only did he win at the big odds of 50/1, but he also nabbed race favourites Juveigneur and Distant Thunder right on the line to just claim victory in one of the closest finishes in festival history.

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Lisnagar Oscar – Stayers Hurdle, 2020

This race was all about Paisley Park defending his crown however he seemingly suffered an injury during the race and never fired. Lisgnar Oscar was the shock beneficiary of Paisley Park underperforming, winning at odds of 50/1.

Rebecca Curtis’ horse ran well in the Albert Bartlett the year previous however hadn’t really fired during the season and came in under the radar but travelled well throughout and stayed on strongly up the hill and saw off the challengers to give Rebecca Curtis a first Cheltenham Festival victory

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