This isn’t a story about a winner I remember or a heartbreaking loss. I didn’t back the winner of the 2000 Coral Cup, I know that and have no idea who I backed. This is a story of one of the most amazing finishes you will ever see, with a 33-1 shot, ridden by an amateur jockey claiming 3lb coming from nowhere to win a remarkable race.
Had Native Dara under Barry Geraghty, himself a 25-1 shot, won the race then it would have been a relatively straightforward affair. He made headway 4 out, challenged 2 out, led round the home turn to go 5 lengths clear after the last. The race was in the bag. Only it seems that one horse, What’s Up Boys, had just jumped in.
He had been prominent early and lost his place going down the back, perhaps not surprising given his price of 33-1. He started making rapid headway though as they turned for home though was still only around 12th jumping the last at least 15 lengths behind Native Dara. Somehow, though he found a rare turn of foot and sprinted up the hill to put his grey head in front on the line to win a neck. As commentator Simon Holt exclaimed “where did this fellow come from”.
Certainly an exciting finish but why have I included it in this collection? In 2000 I travelled to Cheltenham with about 8-10 friends, staying in Tetbury and travelling up. Of course no one backed What’s Up Boys did they? Oh yes, one person did. One person in our group who would happily admit he knew nothing about horses but had backed What’s Up Boys, and even better had invested on the Tote, where it paid a very nice £74.50 for the win. Beginners luck or great form study – maybe it makes little difference.
Interestingly in 14th place in that Coral Cup was a 10 year old horse called Allegation, a veteran of five previous Cheltenham Festivals. The Coral Cup of three years earlier in 1997, was spookily similar to the 2000 version. That day Allegation was a 20-1 shot under AP McCoy in a 28 runner field and was one of four Martin Pipe trained runners.
Under a typically power packed McCoy ride Allegation was just about seeing off Castle Sweep , holding him by a head at the line. But with what less than half a furlong to go, a horse coming from way back (over 10 lengths) suddenly picked up and came with this devastating charge to get up in the last stride and win a short head. That horse was Big Strand, a stablemate of Allegation.
That race wasn’t so much about someone in our party backing the unlikely winner but more that one of the guys had a decent bet on Allegation and saw the ultimate a 20-1 payday snatched away on the line.
Two Coral Cups, more Cheltenham folklore.