The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the most prestigious race in the National Hunt calendar, the blue riband of the jumps game and the prize every owner, trainer and jockey dreams of winning.
The feature contest on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival in March, the Gold Cup has been won by many of the sport’s superstars – but there have also been some monumental upsets. Here are five such occasions.
Norton’s Coin, 1990, Odds 100/1
Not even owner/trainer Sirrel Griffiths could surely have believed the stunning upset that Norton’s Coin was going to pull off in the 1990 Gold Cup.
The reigning champion that year was the great Desert Orchid and the popular grey was sent off odds-on 10/11favourite to retain his mantle.
It wasn’t to be for ‘Dessie’ however as the Graham McCourt-ridden Norton’s Coin produced a fine round of jumping and he had three-parts of a length in hand at the line over Toby Tobias, with Desert Orchid third.
It was the biggest win of Griffiths’ career – the Welsh dairy farmer leaving the Cheltenham grandstands stunned in silence.
L’Escargot, 1970, Odds 33/1
With his name literally translating from French to mean ‘The Snail’, L’Escargot had things stacked against him from the off.
The Dan Moore-trained runner was anything but snail-like in running a fast time to win the Gold Cup under Tommy Carberry and he has stamina in abundance coming up the famous hill.
Underestimated in 1970, he retained the crown a year later at odds of 7/2 and would go on to win the 1975 Grand National, halting Red Rum’s winning Aintree run in the process.
Cool Ground, 1992, Odds 25/1
The early 1990s were to prove the breeding ground for Gold Cup upsets. Just two years after Norton’s Coin stunned the Cotswolds, the Toby Balding-trained Cool Ground obliged at 25/1.
Once more, the favourite was short, with Martin Pipe’s Carvill’s Hill sent off at even-money but he disappointed on the day and instead it was 1990 Welsh Grand National hero Cool Ground and Adrian Maguire who held off what would be 1994 winner, The Fellow, in second, to score.
Cool Dawn, 1998, Odds 25/1
The 1990s truly was the decade for Gold Cup upsets. After Norton’s Coin and Cool Ground came Mr Mulligan at 20/1 in 1997 under jockey AP McCoy (his first Gold Cup) and See More Business in 1999 for trainer Paul Nicholls (his first Gold Cup). Sandwiched in between was Cool Dawn for trainer Robert Alner and rider Andrew Thornton.
The likes of Dorans Pride and See More Business were amongst the fancied contenders as Cool Dawn saw off Strong Promise under Norman Williamson and the Richard Dunwoody-ridden favourite Dorans Pride to win.
Lord Windermere, 2014, Odds 20/1
Jim Culloty already had a sensational association with the Gold Cup having ridden Best Mate to his three wins before he saddled Lord Windermere for a shock win in 2014. The defending champ was Bobs Worth for Nicky Henderson at 6/4, but he was well held.
Davy Russell and Lord Windermere meanwhile were out the back for much the race and looking likely to play little part in the finish.
The jockey hunted his mount into contention under a superb ride and they prevailed in a dive for the line, edging Willie Mullins’ On His Own by a short head in one of the closest finishes on record.