Horse Racing: The 5 biggest gambles that stung Paddy Power in National Hunt racing

And two of them came on Grand National Day!



Aintree Grand National 2010 – Don’t Push It

After 15 years of trying, champion jump jockey AP McCoy finally crossed the line in front at Aintree,  much to the bookies misfortune!

Don’t Push It himself had reached a very decent level over fences prior to his big day in the sun, winning a valuable handicap chase at the Grand National meeting a year previously, but this was a totally different ball game.

It was his first attempt over the Grand National fences, but everything went so smoothly for both horse and rider that they went on to win by five lengths.

He proved a sustained gamble throughout the day and having opened up at 20/1 before the race – he was backed all the way down to 10/1 joint favourite at the ‘off’.

His run prior to winning this race was a fairly dismal effort in the Pertemps Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival only three weeks before, hence the 20/1 morning price! It proved a great result for punters and horse racing in general as the 20 times consecutive champion jump jockey, finally added his name to the most decorated jumps race in the world.


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Aintree Grand National 2000 – Papillon

Father and sons teams have a good record in the Grand National and Ted and Ruby Walsh were no different at the turn of the century.

Trainer Ted had made a plan for Papillon some time in advance of him winning the race in 2000 and it paid dividends.  Walsh had seen the father and son team of Tommy and Paul Carberry land the great race a year earlier with Bobbyjo and set to work.

Having shown little or no form in the 12 months leading up to the race, bar an eye-catching run at Leopardstown over hurdles, Papillon with a young Ruby Walsh aboard, left all of those runs behind to land the biggest race of them all.

Available at around 20/1 on the morning of the race (much bigger in the months leading up to it) his price contracted all the way down to 10/1 to leave bookmakers staring down big-race losses for the third year on the trot, after Earth Summit (7/1f) & the well-fancied Bobbyjo (10/1) had delivered.

Ted Walsh would go on to train Seabass to finish 3rd in the race 12 years later with his daughter Katie Walsh on board, while Ruby became the top jock of his generation and won it again in 2006 to give Willie Mullins his first win in the race.


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Christmas Hurdle 2019 – Epatante

Knowing what we know now about this season’s Champion Hurdle winner, there was full reason to suggest that the 5/1 about Epatante in the days leading up to the Christmas Hurdle was way too big.

However, it looked a fair price at the time, given she had only won a handicap hurdle at Newbury off a mark of 137!

Having opened at 4/1 on December 26, we saw solid and sustained support all the way down to her going off the 2/1 joint favourite with stablemate Fusil Raffles. She duly went on to record a very easy victory to bring plenty of Christmas cheer to punters.

We’d learnt our lesson by the time Cheltenham came around last March and kept her onside. It’s safe to say though, she was one of the best-backed winners of a Grade 1 race during the season.

Cheltenham Paddy Power

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Coral Cup 2003 – Xenophon

Irish trainer Tony Martin was and still is renowned for pulling off big gambles, mainly in handicaps.

This was one of his finest as Xenophon had only run over hurdles five times before landing a huge gamble on the biggest stage of all – the Cheltenham Festival.

Mick Fitzgerald had ridden him to win the old ‘Pierse Hurdle’ at Leopardstown a couple of months earlier, but that was off a mark of 117 (a long way off what is even required to even get into the Coral Cup now). Fitzgerald told his then boss Nicky Henderson that he would love to ride Xenophon over anything the Seven Barrows trainer running in the race.

Having been available at 20/1 ante post and 8/1 on the morning of the race, punters from both sides of the Irish Sea joined in a huge plunge to send him off the 4/1 clear favourite in the annual cavalry charge.

There was never a moment’s worry as he stormed up the hill to record an easy victory. It will forever go down as one of Tony Martin’s greatest gambles.

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Galway Hurdle 2012 – Rebel Fitz

There have been plenty of Galway Hurdle gambles over the years, but Rebel Fitz sticks out for trainer Mick Winters given the celebrations that incurred in the parade ring afterwards.

Rebel Fitz had always been a very good horse in his own right, finishing second in a Grade 2 novice hurdle the season before. By the time the Galway Hurdle rolled around, he had built up plenty of hurdling experience.

The Grimes Hurdle at Tipperary was renowned as a good trial race for Thursday’s feature at Ballybrit and Rebel Fitz duly obliged in it. Punters put full faith in both Mick Winters and Davy Russell to deliver the goods as he went off at 11/2, having been a bigger price in the days leading up to the contest.

Winters followed up with another well-backed winner the following year when his superstar mare Missuinted won under Robbie Power.

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