We all have a mate who informs us he has ‘never lost a bet in his life’. Everything he touches turns to gold. He can do no wrong. Of course that may well be far from the truth, but some punters really do have incredible luck or perhaps even fate on their side.
1) From £0.50 to £1,000,000
In 2008, an eight horse accumulator by lucky Yorkshire based punter Fredd Craggs, 60, bagged him an astonishing £1,000,000 win. What drove his decisions resulting in this 2,000,000-1 event you may ask? Was it the form, the trainer, the jockey? No, none of these he simply went with names that he liked the sound of. So apparent no hopers racing at Sandown, Dubai and Wolverhampton with names such as “Isn’t that Lucky”, “Racer Forever” and “A Dream Come True” (you’re not joking) resulted in this lucky man winning a life changing sum of money.
2) Lightening Strikes Twice
In 2001 an unnamed manchester 50-something pocketed a staggering £500,000 from an insignificant 30p 15 event accumulator bet placed at a William Hill in Lichfield. That’s odds of 1,666,666-to-one . The bet was placed on football, cricket and rugby outcomes. Unbelievably the same man won over £150,000 in a £2.50 accumulator bet in 1999 too at the same branch. Branch manager Janet Dyke paid out on both bets. “I was happy for him last night, but at the same time, I thought ‘Oh no, not again’. She said.
3) Magnificent Seven
One of the best known and most widely publicised big wins came as Frankie Dettori remarkably rode winners in all seven of his Ascot races in 1996. A £67 accumulator places on this exact eventuality by Darren Yeats of Morecombe, Lancashire, turned that sum into over £550,000. He used the money to move house and double the size of his business which was struggling at the time. Others weren’t so lucky on the day though. One unlucky lady had 50p win bets on all seven winners, collecting £19. If she’d done a 50p accumulator instead she could’ve won tens of thousands of pounds. I wonder what the biggest win ever is resulting from a horse racing free bet ?
4) Pop Picker
15 years ago, a 40 year old man placed a £30 bet in a Ladbrokes branch in Wales. The bet largely centred on the entertainment and music industry: Cliff Richard to be knighted, U2 to say together, Eastenders to still be broadcasting as well as Neighbours and Home and Away to still be regular fixtures on UK TV. All by the year 2000. He was right on all counts and walked back into the same branch that year to collect his £200,000 in winnings.
2013 Champion Hurdle winner Hurricane Fly is set to return to the Cheltenham Festival next month in the bid to retain his crown and be successful in the leading 2m hurdle contest for a third time.
It has already been a record breaking season for Willie Mullins’ hurdler as he reached Grade One victory number 17 in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown on his opening run of the season. That is more than any other horse in history as it beats Kauto Star and American champion John Henry’s previous best of 16.
Hurricane Fly followed that up with a win in the Ryanair Hurdle at Leopardstown on December 27. He took on two of his Champion Hurdle contenders on that occasion in Jezki and Our Connor and came out on top by over two lengths.
The 10-year has dominated the Irish Champion Hurdle in recent years and he made it four consecutive victories in the contest last month in his final run before travelling across for the Festival in March.
Hurricane Fly is currently locked at the top end of the betting with The New One in the Betfair market for the feature on day one.
Nigel-Twiston Davies’ runner won the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle 12 months ago in emphatic style.
He returned for the new campaign with a victory at Kempton where he came up against former Champion Hurdle winner Rock on Ruby in his first test.
Last year’s leading novice picked up the International Hurdle on his second outing of the campaign, but there was defeat in the Christmas Hurdle when My Tent or Yours finished ahead of him following a tactical race at Kempton. Sam Twiston-Davies chose to take up the running in the small runner field. A mistake at the last cost him ground which was crucial in a sprint finish up to the line.
The next exciting event on the racing calendar has to be the Cheltenham Festival, taking place in March .With more prize money than any meeting bar the Grand National, excitement swirls around this prestigious occasion held in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. The show-piece of the festival is the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The four day festival starts with Champions Day on Tuesday March 11th. Don’t miss the Championship Hurdle, or the Grade 1 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy, won last year by Simonsig. Wednesday is Ladies Day, where we have an exciting seven day card. There’s St Patrick’s Thursday to look forward to on the 13th, where we anticipate the thrilling Ladbroke’s World Hurdle (favourite Big Bucks is available at 2-1). The festival culminates with the Cheltenham Gold Cup, won in 2013 by Bobs Worth, available at 9/4 and one of the main 2014 Cheltenham tips to win this year. Silviniaco Conti second favourite at 7/2.
Terry Biddlecombe is due to be honoured at the event this time around following has sad passing on 5th January. Biddlecombe both trained winning horses at the festival – including as Gold Cup winner Best Mate – and rode an amazing nine winners as a jockey, includng, yes you guessed it, a Gold Cup winner – Woodland Venture.
Despite there being flood warnings less than 10 miles away earlier this month, Cheltenham’s clerk Simon Claisse assures us that the the show most go on stating that ‘the track is in very good shape’. Fingers crossed this will be one party the weather won’t crash. Shown live on Channel 4, this is a national hunt extravaganza not to be missed.
Buck’s on the trail to historic Cheltenham repeat
(Cheltenham Festival tips)
As the countdown well and truly gathers momentum to the eagerly anticipated Cheltenham Festival there appears to be growing confidence behind the chance of top-class staying hurdler Big Buck’s regaining his World Hurdle crown after making a highly satisfactory return to action at the Prestbury track in January, writes Elliot Slater.
Paul Nicholls’ all-time great staying hurdler had a stranglehold on the three-mile title, winning the crown for four years in succession between 2009-12 before being ruled out of a fifth title last season due to an injury that kept him off the track for nearly 14 months. At the age of 11 it was asking a lot for the great horse to return to action at his very best, and in the circumstances he ran a great race to finish a close third behind shock 66/1 scorer Knockara Beau, another course specialist, albeit at a lower level.
There are always masses of Cheltenham Festival tips flying around in the build-up to the greatest show on turf, but one thing to always bear in mind is that the unique course seems to bring out the best in specific horses, and none more so that Big Buck’s. It’s not that he isn’t high-class everywhere else that he competes, it’s just that the way races are run at Cheltenham and the steep uphill finish, seems to play to the strengths of the winner of 23 of his 39 career starts and over £1.3 million in prize money.
They say that at the top level in sport “they never come back”, but Big Buck’s will be fitter on March 13 than he was in January, and as far as Cheltenham Festival tips go, the current ante-post offer of 9/4 looks extremely tempting for a horse whose been there and done it many times before, and still seems to have that all-important will to win.
It’s never too early in the year to start talking about the jewel in the crown of UK racing, the Grand National. It has to be the one racing event that draws people in regardless of their love of or level of interest in the sport. Held on 5th April this 4 mile plus race, watching by over 500 million people worldwide is bound to be the subject of office sweepstakes and newspaper headlines alike. The most valuable jump race is Europe is not to be missed.
Grand National Chief John Baker is chomping at the bit to see punters enjoying the Grand National, with loose plans to add an open day or even a family day in future years with the hope of creating something akin to an Olympic Experience for those attending the event. Baker was especially pleased last year since all 40 horses safely completed the course. The eventual winner is 2013 was 66-1 outsider, Auroras Encore, making for an unpredictable and enjoyable spectacle. Previous to that Neptune Collonges won in 2012 at 33-1 and Ballabriggs in 2011 at 14-1.
For the first time, the Aintree held Grand National 2014, now sponsored by Crabbie’s ginger beer will have prize money of over £1 million. I wonder who will come out on top over the 16 fences this year? Remember to add April 3rd – 5th to your calendar. Tune in and enjoy the Opening Day, Ladies Day and of course the main event, Grand National Day.