THE victory by Bells Are Ringin’ in last Thursday’s Group 1 Sandown Cup, at official odds of $38.40, although Sportsbet, for example, had her at $81.00 fixed odds at the finish, is easily the biggest ‘upset’ in the history of Victoria’s premier distance event.
Of course, whether Bells Are Ringin should have ever started anywhere near such big odds is open to question. After all, she was one of the seven heat winners the previous week, boasted a very consistent racing record of 15 wins and 10 placings from just 38 starts and had won or run second at each of her previous five starts beyond 700m.
The marketplace can be a strange ‘animal’ at times and the following is a compilation of a few major race winners who have started at long odds in their respective finals and passed the post in front.
This year has already borne witness to one rank outsider winning a topline event, namely, Midwinter, who took out the Group 1 Silver Chief Classic on January 2 at official odds of $41.00.
Midwinter is the second outsider to snare a Silver Chief Classic since its inception. Back in 1985, the South Australian finalist Supreme Spot held on to score by a neck for trainer Colin Wachtel at odds of 100/1. That victory is the longest official price ever bet on the winner of a major race in Australia.
In 2003, the Group 2 Ipswich Auction Series was won by Awesome Design. Having only its fifth start, Awesome Design scored his first win, by a head, at official odds of $52.80.
The 1990 version of the Christmas Gift, run over 520m at Wentworth Park, fell to the 33/1 outsider True Blue Tah, who scored by three lengths from box 5.
It’s hard to believe a greyhound which would eventually become the highest stakes winner in the country and who already possessed a reasonably imposing record could possibly be sent out at 33/1 for a major race. Yet this is precisely what happened in the 1980 final of the Australian Cup (now a Group 1 event) to Tangaloa.
The Joe Hili-trained black dog was on the comeback trail and downed the brilliant Tempix by just over three lengths to collect a $30,000 first prize and the Australian prize money record, eclipsing Acclaim Star, who finished sixth in that final.
The National Derby has thrown up more rank outsiders since it was inaugurated than any other major race. In 1964, Flying Myobb (a 20/1 chance) scored for trainer Ken Cheetham and then, in 1973, the 80/1 chance Rushin Moss held off Dusty Trail and future champion Woolley Wilson to score on a heavy track.
In 1987, as the new Wentworth Park track was being built, the National Derby was run over 457m at Harold Park. On a heavy track the first reserve Shy Sultan (from box 5) upset Pivot’s Victory and Yannick to score at 50/1.
The Paws of Thunder, when it was still known as the NSW St Leger, has produced two long-priced winners. The first was in 1960 when 33/1 chance Constant Raider held on to defeat Victorian star Tamaroo by half a length.
Then, in 1969, maiden performer Beau Brin, also at 33/1, downed the champion pair of The Smoother and Pied Rebel for trainer Warren Harper. Finally, the 1951 final of the Hobart Thousand saw local hope Pleasant Foam, at 33/1, defeat the New Zealand finalist Final Birch by a neck with Good Worker, which had been imported from England and was based in New South Wales just a head away third.