‘Biggest shock since Norton’s Coin’ as 80/1 chance trounces his Cheltenham Festival rivals

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  • In possibly the biggest shock at the Cheltenham Festival since 100/1 shot Norton’s Coin won the 1990 Cheltenham Gold Cup, the penultimate race on Tuesday (16 March) went to an 80/1 outsider.

    Trained in Ireland by Noel Meade, the four-year-old Jeff Kidder held off 21 rivals to cross the line in front in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle with Sean Flanagan in the saddle, leaving many punters scratching their heads. 

    “I thought he had a chance,” said his trainer. “He worked the other day and I was very happy with what I saw. I said to Sean Flanagan, you’ve got two good rides at Cheltenham for me this week and I think you will be thereabouts on this one.

    “He is a stayer on the Flat and that’s what you need around Cheltenham. That is what he ended up doing, just outstaying them. I think the better ground helped as well.”

    Meade also attributed Jeff Kidder’s success to having won on the Flat.

    “He was used to the hustle and bustle,” he said. “Colin Keane has been riding him on the Flat and he said he will win you a Cesarewitch one day and hopefully he is right. He will run on the Flat again but we will look at another race over hurdles and we might go to Punchestown with him.

    “It was nice to get another winner at Cheltenham as it has not been the happiest hunting ground for me. It gets tougher and tougher to get winners at Cheltenham but it is the place we all want to have winners at and we think about it from one end of the year to the next.”

    Jockey Sean Flanagan was returning to the Cheltenham Festival winner’s enclosure for the first time.

    “To be fair to Noel, we were doing a bit of work the other day and had a chat afterwards, and he maintained the horse had a right chance, and generally when he says something like that you have to stand up and take note, and he was very right,” said Flanagan.

    “I genuinely said when I passed the line, ‘I can’t believe it’. I was talking here yesterday with a few lads who have ridden winners here, and they said, ‘It’s a feeling you can’t really explain’, and even though there are no crowds here, I can only imagine what it would be like if there were.”

    The Willie Mullins-trained favourite Saint Sam finished runner-up with 66/1 chance Elham Valley (Fergal O’Brien / Paddy Brennan) springing another surprise in third.

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