The Grand National is often dubbed ‘the ultimate test for horse and rider’ and although the celebrated steeplechase has not – or, at least, not yet – thrown up the longest-priced winner in the history of British horse racing it has produced its fair share of ‘shock’ victories. All told, in 172 renewals, five winners of the Aintree marathon have been returned at treble-figure odds, all at 100/1, and collectively they share the distinction of being the longest-priced winner.
Granted that the five 100/1 chances represent less than 3% of Grand National winners, it would be reasonable to assume that they are few and far between. However, while the first 100/1 winner, Tipperary Tim did not pop up until 1928 – that is, the eighty-seventh renewal of the Grand National – he was followed in the very next year by the second, Gregalach. Another 19 years later, in 1947, in the first Grand National run on a Saturday, Eddie Dempsey steered Caughoo to a 20-length success and 20 years later still, in 1967, Foinavon became arguably the most famous, and fortuitous, Grand National winner of them all after avoiding a melee at the fence that now bears his name. Over four decades later, in 2009, Mon Mome completed the quintet of 100/1 winners, but there appeared no fluke about his 12-length victory over 2008 winner Comply Or Die.
The Grand National in variably attracts whole host of once-a-year punters dreaming of striking it rich by backing an outsider at hugely rewarding odds. However, such wishful thinkers would do well to remember that, in 172 runnings of the celebrated steeplechase, just five horses have won at treble figure odds. The last two 100/1 winners were Mon Mome (2009) and Foinavon (1967), while further back in Grand National history Caughoo (1947), Gregalach (1929) and Tipperary Tim (1928) also scored equally unlikely victories. It is also worth noting that Tipperary Tim and Foinavon took advantage of mid-race pile-ups and Gregalach and Caughoo were part of the two largest Grand National fields in history, 66 and 57, respectively.
Four horses have won the Grand National at odds of 66/1, the last being Auroras Encore (2013), while the last of the four 50/1 winners was Last Suspect (1985). Seven horses have prevailed at odds of 40/1, the last being Royal Athlete (1995) but, interestingly, all four 33/1 winners, the last of which was Rule The World (2016), have been victorious since the turn of the twenty-first century. So, percentage-wise, in 172 runnings of the Grand National, just 24 winners, or roughly 14%, have been returned at odds of 33/1 or longer. If we also consider 25/1 winners, of which Many Clouds (2015) was the last of fourteen, the number of winners increases to 38, or roughly 22%.
Unlike, say, the Grand National, which has been a handicap for most of its existence, the Cheltenham Gold Cup is a conditions, or weight-for-age, steeplechase. Horses aged six years and upwards carry 11st 10lb, five-year-olds carry 11st 8lb and mares receive a 7lb allowance so, as might be expected, the ‘Blue Riband’ event of the British National Hunt calendar is rarely won by an outsider.
Far and away the biggest outsider to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup since it was first run, as a steeplechase, in 1924, was Norton’s Coin, who defied odds of 100/1 when defeating Toby Tobias and Desert Orchid by three-quarters of a length and four lengths in 1990. Owned and trained by Sirrell Griffiths, a dairy farmer and permit-holder based in Nantgaredig in Carmarthenshire, South West Wales, Norton’s Coin was described, justifiably, as the ‘Shock of the Century’ on the front page of the ‘Racing Post’ the following day.
Indeed, in the entire history of the Cheltenham Gold Cup no other horse has won at odds longer than 33/1; the two 33/1 winners were Gay Donald, trained by Jim Ford, in 1955 and L’Escargot, trained by Dan Moore, in 1970. Cool Ground, trained by Toby Balding, prevailed at odds of 25/1 in 1992, as Cool Dawn, trained by Robert Alner, in 1998, but the only other winners that could be classified as ‘outsiders’ were the 20/1 winners Mr. Mulligan in 1997 and Lord Windermere in 2014.
Royal Ascot, running for five days in mid June of each year (Tuesday 16th June – Saturday 20th June in 2020), is one of the most highly anticipated events in UK racing. With its royal connections and history dating back to 1911, it’s one to watch for all ardent horse racing fans.
As is the nature of racing, it’s impossible to totally rule out big raced winners, and over the years outsiders have won even the most prestigious of Royal Ascot races. I recall Arcadian Heights winning the 1994 Gold Cup on his third attempt as outsider at 20-1.
2020 was no exception for big priced winners. There were several horses winning at big odds with bookmakers over the five days (Onassis and Scarlett Dragon both won as 33-1 outsiders). As often happens though, racing saves the best for last. On the final day not only did Frankie Dettori pull off an impressive treble (which as an accumulator would have been 150-1), but it also brought us the biggest odds winner in Royal Ascot history, co-incidentally also 150-1, Nando Parrado.
Coming in at only fifth on his Newmarket debut earlier this month, Nando Parrado simply wasn’t on the radar, and left punters and bookmakers stunned with a performance that earned him the title of biggest price Royal Ascot winner in modern times. He looked to have serious ambitions as he started the Coventry Stakes, featuring prominently. Qaader put down a challenge but there was only one winner on the day, Nando Parrado, ridden by Jockey Adam Kirby. Prior to this the longest-priced outsider winner in Royal Ascot’s history was Flashmans Papers in the 2008 Windsor Castle and Fox Chapel in the 1990 Britannia Stakes.
After the victory Trainer Clive Cox was more inclined to say he was shocked by the 150-1 price, rather than the win, “I was just saying it is not a shock. The price was a shock. He is a proper horse and we loved him from the start. It was always the plan to come here, it was just a sideways step on his first run.”. Before 2020, the biggest priced winner(s) in the Coventry Stakes was just 20-1 (Chief Singer (1983), Landseer (2001), War Command (2013)). At 150-1 with bookmakers – and much bigger on the exchanges – Nando Parrado has set a Royal Ascot record that’s going to be hard to top.