Longest-priced winner anywhere reminds us all is possible!
Luke Comer's 300/1 winner He Knows No Fear at Leopardstown yesterday conjures up marvelous visions of punters with fistfuls of notes leaving betting shops all over the UK and Ireland. Indeed, according to the Guardian, 100 Paddy Power customers actually bet on the long odds outsider, albeit for small stakes.
The reality though is that horses at long odds very rarely make for wealthy punters; there's generally a reason horses drift so far in the market.
Here are a few memorable long-priced winners around the Jumping game to dwell on:
Equinoctial remains Britain's longest-priced winner ever, when winning a Novices Handicap Hurdle at Kelso in November 1990 at 250/1.The price wouldn't have been any great surprise to followers of the horse; that season's form figures read PUFPU0 in four previous runs. Yet the then 5 year old had been sufficiently well thought of to graduate from an Askeaton Point-to-Point win in Ireland to Michael Hourigan's yard before being rapidly moved on to Michael Dods.
Kelso wasn't quite the career best of Equinoctial. He won three times more, over hurdles at Sedgefield, in a Novices Chase at Catterick and finally in 1996 in a Point-to-Point at Tranwell, each for a different handler, at a dizzyingly shorter odds each time.
Arctic Blue provided a 200/1 shock for a sparse crowd at Chepstow in March 2005 when winning on his third outing over jumps for Pat Rodford. Sadly that turned out to be his only victory in 17 starts.
Maoi Chinn Tire became the UK's second-longest priced winner, again at 200/1 when scooping the Grade II Wensleydale Juvenile Hurdle at Wetherby's Charlie Hall meeting in 2010 for Staffordshire trainer Jennie Candlish and her owner Alan Baxter. Bought from a claimer previously, Baxter took some 300/1 and paid back the purchase price from his winnings.
Lights of Broadway is the last of three 200/1 winners in another Novices Hurdle, this time limited to mares, at Taunton in January 2012. The bay mare won once more for trainer Jo Hughes at Catterick in December 2014, but to be fair, did give her owners some value, often running in to the minor placings.
It's in the big races that long priced winners really capture the public imagination though.
The Grand National is always a race that encourages long priced winners, simply by dint of the 40-strong field. And behind every success is a fairytale story.
In 1967, Foinavon became the race's first 100/1 winner, when journeyman rider Johnny Buckingham avoided a melee at the fence after Bechers - the smallest on the course - to hunt round to victory, largely in his own time. Seventeen horses followed, mostly by remounting, but they were still a remote 20 lengths behind come the line.
Trainer/rider John Kempton hadn't been able to take the mount on account of the low weight. He and owner Cyril Watkins opted for Worcester the same day instead. Watkins had eschewed the usual larger riding fee that most National jockeys received, so Buckingham was the fourth he'd asked to ride. Johnny made a name for himself out of the saddle too, valeting the top riders for years after his retirement in 1971. He died, much loved, in 2016.
In 1985, Welshman Hwyel Davies won the race for the only time for Anne, Duchess of Westminster, owner of Arkle, with Last Suspect, at odds of 50/1. His arch-pessimist trainer, Captain Tim Forster, had been dead against running the horse in the race, telling his rider to "keep remounting". Happily, no such instructions were necessary.
More recently, Mon Mome is the longest-priced winner of the current era. catapulting rider Liam Treadwell into the public eye, together with Venetia Williams, the horse's trainer. Much-loved Liam, who sadly took his own life earlier this year, enjoyed riding success thereafter until a fall with concussion forced him out of riding.
Mon Mome is the latest of 5 100/1 winners since the race was inaugurated in 1839. Tipperary Tim (1928), Gregalach (1929) and Caughoo (1947) were the others.
But who could forget one of racing's most wonderful moments, and another long-priced winner, when Welsh dairy farmer Sirrel Griffiths stole the Cheltenham Gold Cup with rank outsider Norton's Coin in 1990. In today's competitive Gold Cups, horses are never offered at that price, and in truth, he didn't deserve that price. But then, Wales was an unfashionable place to train horses, not like now, where it's a veritable fortress of talent at every level.
Long-priced winners make great headlines, but sadly for the majority of us, it's merely a case of saying, "why didn't I back that?"!