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Tuesday, 14 September 2021

He Knows No Fear


For nearly three decades, the record for the longest-priced winner in British horse racing history was held by Equinoctial, who defied odds of 250/1 when winning the Grants Whisky Novices' Handicap Hurdle at Kelso on November 21, 1990. However, on August 13, 2020, that record finally fell when the three-year-old He Knows No Fear got up in the dying strides to win the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden, over a mile, at Leopardstown at odds of 300/1. Those interested in online gambling will have made a bundle if they bet on it. 

Bred, owned and trained by Luke Comer in Dunboyne, Co. Meath, the son of unheralded sire Mourayan had made his racecourse debut, under apprentice Gabi Bourke, in a similar race at Limerick the previous month, for which he started at odds of 250/1. On that occasion, he was slowly into his stride – in fact, 'left half a furlong', according to assistant trainer, Jim Gorman – and eventually trailed in twelfth of the fourteen runners, beaten 18 lengths.

However, on his second start, He Knows No Fear was ridden by Classic-winning jockey Chris Hayes. Unsurprisingly, He Knows No Fear still showed signs of inexperience when ridden two furlongs from home, but made rapid headway on the outside of the field from the furlong marker. He went second behind favourite Agitare – officially rated 98, but still a maiden after seven starts – inside the final hundred yards and stayed on strongly to lead on the line and win by a head.

Comer and his family have bred exclusively from Mourayan since he was exported back to Ireland from Australia in early 2015. Quoted in the 'Racing Post', Comer said, 'He Knows No Fear is a nice horse. The first race, you couldn't go by, because he got left in the stalls. I think Mourayan is not a bad sire at all.'

Monday, 16 August 2021



On paper, the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Beginners Chase, run over 2 miles 1½ furlongs at Fairyhouse on February 23, 2019, appeared to be a match between Dakota Moirette, trained by Gordon Elliott, and Aint Dunne Yet, trained by Noel Meade. Indeed, in the seven-runner contest, the bookmakers bet 1/2 Dakota Moirette, 7/2 Aint Dunne Yet and 12/1 bar the pair at the 'off'.

The market looked like proving an accurate guide to the outcome as, between the final two fences, Dakota Moirette and Aint Dunne Yet, who had led or disputed the lead from the start, drew a long way clear of their rivals. At that stage, commentator Tony O'Hehir said, 'They have it between them', and so they did. They approached the final fence neck-and-neck, but Dakota Moirette put down when asked to pick up by jockey Jack Kennedy and fell, directly in front of Aint Dunne Yet, whose jockey was unseated a few strides later.

Thankfully, both horses and both jockeys survived unscathed, but the untimely demise of the market leaders left the way clear for Graineyhill, a stable companion of Dakota Moirette, to saunter home by 8 lengths. Sent off at 12/1, the 8-year-old gelding had been ridden along in a moderate third place, 20 lengths or more behind the clear leaders, by Keith Donoghue after the second last fence and was making no impression when the race effectively fell into his lap. Officially described as 'lucky' by the 'Racing Post', his unlikely win was especially fortuitous for the fleet-fingered Betfair layers who matched him at 999/1, to the tune of £80, in-running.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Bubble Boy

Respected professional punter Alan Potts once said, 'The principle is that if as a result of your form analysis, you can make a good argument for supporting a longshot, then you must make the bet.The key factor is that no bet on such a horse can be expected to fulfil the same exacting criteria that you would apply to a 4/1 shot.' A case in point was Bubble Boy, a six-year-old gelding, trained by Brendan Powell, who won a beginners' chase at Fontwell, on his chasing debut, on January 24, 2005, at odds of 100/1.

Sired by the American-bred stallion Hubbly Bubbly – at that stage, already responsible for winning steeplechaser Cloudy Bays – Bubble Boy was bought by Powell, on behalf of the late John Plackett, from former weighing room colleague Adrian Maguire. According to Powell, Maguire told him 'not to waste our time over hurdles and to put him straight over fences'. Bubble Boy did run twice in National Hunt Flat Races for his new connections, while he didn't win, but finishing fifth of fifteen at Exeter in April, 2004 and tailed-off tenth of thirteen, after a 202-day break, at Plumpton the following November.

Obviously, when he lined up at Fontwell, his previous form was, at best, modest, but he was, at least, unexposed, which is not something that could be said for many of his six rivals. The decision to send him straight over fences was intriguing and, for a horse with sufficient size and scope to justify the idea that he would make a steeplechaser, his earlier defeats were entirely forgiveable. In any event, Bubble Boy made all the running under conditional jockey James Davies and, although all out at the finish, held on to beat 8/13 favourite Distant Thunder – who had been beaten on his four previous starts over fences – by half a length.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Auroras Encore


In the history of the Grand National, several of the longest-priced winners, notably Tipperary Tim in 1928 and Foinavon in 1967, have taken advantage of atrocious weather conditions and/or a mid-race pile-up, which put paid to the chances of many of their rivals, to record unlikely victories. However, the victory of Auroras Encore in 2013, while almost equally unlikely, had little to do with meteorlogy or fortuity.

In fact, during the 2013 renewal of the Grand National, run on good to soft going, in fair weather, just eight horses fell or unseated rider and 17 of the 40 starters completed the course. Indeed, for the first time in 166 runnings of the celebrated steeplechase, the whole field reached The Canal Turn – the eighth fence on the first circuit of the Grand National Course – unscathed and 32 horses were still standing heading out into the country for the second time.

Auroras Encore, an 11-year-old trained by Sue Smith, in High Eldwick, West Yorkshire, had finished second, beaten just a head, in the Scottish Grand National at Ayr the previous April but, after seven subsequent unplaced efforts, was sent off at 66/1 on his first attempt in the Grand National proper. Arguably well handicapped, off a mark 6lb lower than at Ayr, Auroras Encore mainly jumped well for his jockey, Ryan Mania, who was having his first ride in the race. He survived a mistakes at the tenth and twenty-seventh fences and, having jumped the second last in third place, joined the leader, Teaforthree, at the final fence. Thereafter, he never looked like being caught and was driven clear on the run-in to cause a 'huge shock'.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Spanish Don

Generally speaking, it would be fair to say that bookmakers don’t make too many mistakes and, even in a race as competitive as the Cambridgeshire Handicap at Newmarket – the second leg of the traditional ‘Autumn Double’ – most horses that are sent off at 100/1 fully deserve to be that price. However, Spanish Don who, in 2004, became the joint-longest-priced winner of the aforementioned Cambridgeshire definitely didn’t.

Indeed, reflecting on the ‘unlikely’ victory of his six-year-old, winning trainer David Elsworth quipped, ‘I suppose it’s my popularity that made him 100-1.Even the muppets in the Racing Post said you couldn’t leave him out. It was a surprise he was 100-1. It wasn’t a surprise he won. I had a few quid on, but I’m a mug punter, aren’t I?’

In the preceding two seasons, Spanish Don had won four of his nine starts for Elsworth, after being transferred from Philip Mitchell in September, 2003 and, in so doing, risen 20lb in the weights. On his two starts immediately before the Cambridgeshire, the Zafonic gelding had again run well, off his revised mark of 95, when fifth of fifteen, beaten just two lengths, in a Class 2 handicap over 1 mile 2 furlongs at Goodwood and, after a short break, finishing ninth of eighteen, beaten 5¾ lengths, in a similar race at Newbury. Based on those performances, it could be argued that Spanish Don was, perhaps, a little high in the weights, but quite how that equated to a triple-figure starting price remains something of a mystery.

Monday, 22 February 2021

Thursday, 7 January 2021

Norton’s Coin

The Cheltenham Festival is, of course, the pinnacle of National Hunt racing and, granted the host of competitive races on offer, long-priced winners are to be expected. However, the longest-priced winner in the history of the Cheltenham Festival came not, as you might expect, in a traditional ‘cavalry charge’, such as the Coral Cup, Pertemps Final or County Hurdle, but in the Cheltenham Gold Cup itself.

Indeed, the victory of 100/1 outsider Norton’s Coin in the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup was reported in the ‘Racing Post’ the following day under the headline ‘Shock of the Century’. In a real-life rags-to-riches story to rival the fictional ‘National Velvet’, Norton’s Coin was bred, owned and trained by Sirrell Griffiths, a permit-holder from Carmarthenshire in West Wales, who had just three horses at the time. Griffiths had originally intended to run Norton’s Coin in a handicap chase, but failed to declare the nine-year-old. He opted for the Gold Cup instead when he learned that Jenny Pitman intended to run a horse that Norton’s Coin had beaten, seeking to finish in the first five or six to recoup his entry fee.

Despite his eye-watering starting price, Norton’s Coin never gave his supporters – not that he had many – an anxious moment. On the prevailing good to firm going, he was always travelling well under jockey Graham McCourt and, having taken the lead on the infamously stiff ‘Cheltenham Hill’, battled on to hold third-favourite Toby Tobias by three-quarters of a length. Defending champion, and odds-on favourite, Desert Orchid finished third, a further four lengths away, and the winning time, 6 minutes 30.9 seconds.