Punters often dream about landing a huge win and there are many different ways to do that. Some gamblers play small stakes accas, adding four, five, six or even more horses to their slip hoping to hit that life-changing win. Others, typically high-rollers, might stake four-, five- or even six-figure sums, the sort of cash most of us can dream about, on favourites at relatively short odds. But the route we are looking at here concerns simply backing a single horse at huge odds.
Most weeks somewhere around the world a horse will win at triple-digit odds. Whilst few horse racing punters are likely to stick enough on such a three-legged nag to win a life-changing amount, even a £5 each way wager could win you enough for a decent holiday. Depending on the odds, a £50 win bet – still a huge sum at these sorts of prices – might deliver enough for a new car! Anyway, whatever the stake, whatever the crazy reasoning and whatever the winners chose to spend their cash on, here we take a look at the horses that have won at the biggest, longest, maddest odds.
Longest Odds Horseracing Winners
At the time of writing we have just seen one of the longest odds winners anywhere in the world when it comes to horse racing. We have seen bigger winners in other sports, such as the many punters who famously backed Leicester at 5,000/1 to win the Premier League in 2015/16 and in golf, with even majors having been won at 500/1 (Ben Curtis at the 2003 Open). However, when Sawbuck won at 300/1 at Punchestown on the 24th May 2022 it equalled the previous longest odds set by He Knows No Fear just a couple of years earlier.
Below we can see a list of the longest odds winners in UK or Irish horse racing, covering both Flat racing and National Hunt. Note that longer-odds winners may have been recorded in the distant past but as far as modern record-keeping is concerned, these are generally accepted as being the horses to have won at the biggest odds.
|300/1||Sawbuck||Punchestown||24th May 2022|
|300/1||He Knows No Fear||Leopardstown||13th August 2020|
|250/1||Equinoctial||Kelso||21st November 1990|
|200/1||Killahara Castle||Thurles||17th December 2017|
|200/1||Dandy Flame||Wolverhampton||25th July 2016|
It is believed that there is another winner, and a famous one at that, to have done the business at a hefty price of 200/1. However, whilst Theodore reportedly won the St Leger, the oldest of the five British Classics, at that crazy price, this came way back in 1822. Whilst we can be certain that the Yorkshire-trained stallion did indeed win this huge race, and we can probably take the 200/1 as a reliable figure, this clearly predates modern bookmaking and record-keeping. As such, this relative of the legendary Eclipse, whose sire line includes Sadler’s Wells, Galileo and Danehill to name just three, does not quite make our list.
Sawbuck – 300/1
Sawbuck landed a maiden hurdle at one of Ireland’s most famous tracks, Punchestown, to enter the record books. One could argue he is the true record-holder as his price actually hit 400/1 at one point but our list is based solely on the declared Starting Price so the Irish horse will have to settle for a share of the record.
His odds in previous races had been 200/1, 100/1, 66/1, 125/1, 250/1 and 50/1, with his best performance in that time possibly coming when 14th of 23 at the Curragh when a relatively well-fancied 66/1 shot. Prior to the victory, he was 10th of 12 in a race that took place just a month and a half before winning, when a ‘red-hot’ 50/1 shot. The Conor O’Dwyer-trained gelding, with Sadler’s Wells in his pedigree, had been tried over hurdles and the flat without success so despite having been in “great form at home” according to his trainer, it was still a huge surprise when he kept on well to win by four lengths at Punchestown.
He Knows No Fear 300/1
If 300/1 winners are like busses and good luck and come in threes then perhaps we should all be keeping our eyes peeled at the bottom end of the market because we only have to go back to August 2020, less than two years ago at the time of writing, for another winner at this crazy price. When will the next 300/1 shot land?
Like our other 300/1 victor, He Knows No Fear did the business at one of the biggest tracks in Ireland, Leopardstown this time. Luke Comer’s colt claimed victory in his second race, having previously been sent off at a chunky price of 250/1 at Limerick. He saw off 14 other horses over a mile in this maiden contest, winning by just a head after coming from behind in the final furlong.
Going back to 1990 and a time when Gazza was crying his way into the national psyche, and Tim Berners-Lee formally put forward his proposal for a hopeless little idea called the World Wide Web, we also saw Equinoctial cross the line first at then-record odds of 250/1. Equinoctial had changed trainers twice in 1990 prior to his success and so it is Michael Dods who must take the credit for his win.
Raced twice in 1988 he showed a very clear penchant for being sent out at 20/1 and coming last of 14: well, he did it twice from two in his first season at the track. A 489-day absence followed before three point-to-point outings at the start of 1990. Then came the double change of trainers before the rather concerning form figures of 8 (out of 10), PU, F, PU. Sent out for the Grants Whisky Novices’ Handicap Hurdle at Kelso at 250/1, few could have fancied him but he finished the race very strongly to beat 11/2 shot Mister Moody into second by a significant three and a half lengths.
Killahara Castle 200/1
Irish filly Killahara Castle shows career figures of 22 runs, one win, two seconds and two thirds, leaving anyone who backed her blindly £179 to the good based on a level £1 stake. Her win came at Thurles towards the end of her career when she landed the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Boreen Belle Mares Novice Hurdle over two miles on the 17th December.
Leading before the last, the John Burke-trained six year old saw off the heavily fancied odds-on favourite, True Self, a Willie Mullins inmate. In truth, Mullins’ horse couldn’t compete as Killahara Castle moved into the lead before the last and then waltzed to a five-length victory. Her form was not quite as bad as some of the other horses on this list and she had come third at the same track a few weeks earlier, managing fourth and fifth prior to that. Even so, at 200/1 she was clearly not expected to win and reverted to type next time out in what proved to be her last race, finishing ahead of just one other in an 11-runner contest when priced at more modest odds of 50/1.
Dandy Flame 200/1
And so to the final horse in our list of the biggest odds winners in racing, Dandy Flame, the horse with the dandy name and the 200/1 odds. Another Irish horse, this one finished plum last in his first-ever outing at Windsor back in July 2016, shortly after being gelded. Just two weeks later he was back at the track, this time at Wolverhampton, where his odds had doubled from the 100/1 on debut to a massive price of 200/1.
We suspect anyone who backed him that day would remember it as he did the business over the minimum five furlong distance on the all-weather to land the FCL Global Forwarding Making Logistics Personal Maiden Stakes. The 6/4 favourite was beaten into sixth, with 10/1 shot Elegantly Bound second, almost three lengths back from the shock winner. The forecast paid a very tidy dividend of £1,603.83 to anyone who was bold enough to go for a 200/1 and 10/1 one-two.
What About Even Bigger Odds In-Running?
As we have said, the incredible odds detailed above are based on the reported SPs. But these are not the longest odds horses have been backed at. With the advent of in-play betting, in particular at exchanges, we have seen horses backed during the race at far greater odds. Some people view laying horses, betting on them not to win, as an easier option and more often than not it is. Afterall, in every race there is just one winner and many losers.
If a horse appears beaten, some punters will try and bet against it and will lay it at the exchange. They may offer huge odds, either because it is so far back, it is having to be ridden hard without much response from early in the race or, even, in extremis, because people think it has fallen or unseated the rider (perhaps it looks like the rider is about to come unstuck but they manage to hold on at the last second). But in racing, as in sport in general, strange, often-unbelievable things can happen.
A horse that looked absolutely finished two furlongs out might somehow find an incredible finish and come storming through the field. In jumps racing, the leading two, three or even more horses may all fall at the final fence, clearing the way for the horse that had drifted in-play way out to triple-digit odds.
As recently as 2021 something like this happened when 66/1 shot HerecomesFreddie flew through the field at Huntingdown on the 9th November. His price hit the maximum generally available at betting exchanges, 1000 in decimal odds, or 999/1. You might think that nobody would back a horse at that crazy price but the exchange confirmed a massive £583 was matched at 1,000.
The £583 staked might not sound like a sum worthy of being called “massive”. However, due to the huge odds, it meant that in total not far shy of £600,000 was won and lost on HerecomesFreddie in that race. Such events are not hugely uncommon with in-play betting, and many a perceived no-hoper is backed at huge odds way in excess of the 300/1 SP we have seen above.
Indeed, even more was staked on one of our huge-odds winners listed above. According to reports, there was a massive £1,247 matched on Killahara Castle in-play at one of the leading betting exchanges. The horse who was leading and expected to win went as low as 1.03 in-running, meaning that people who backed it for £100 were expecting to get just £3 on top of their stake… but lost it all.
Longest Odds Winners of the Grand National
We could look at any number of huge races around the world but perhaps the question most asked by racing fans, especially casual ones, is: what are the biggest odds of a Grand National winner? Well, the first horse to ever win the National in its official guise was, rather aptly, named Lottery, though it was the 5/1 favourite. No winner has ever done the business at Aintree at lottery-style odds, but then again your chances of winning the Euromillions are a mind-boggling one in 139,838,160. We think a horse would have to have just two legs, let alone three to be sent out at those odds.
No, when it comes to the Grand National, 100/1 is the longest odds winner we have seen to date. That has actually happened five times, most recently in 2009 with Mon Mome. The full list of National winners at triple-digit odds are:
|2009||Mon Mome||100/1||Venetia Williams||Liam Treadwell|
|1967||Foinavon||100/1||John Kempton||John Buckingham|
|1947||Caughoo||100/1||Herbert McDowell||Eddie Dempsey|
|1929||Gregalach||100/1||Tom Leader||Robert Everett|
|1928||Tipperary Tim||100/1||Joseph Dodd||William Dutton|
Of course, the iconic Aintree steeplechase regularly throws up winners at tasty prices though, thanks to its large field and testing fences. As recently as 2022 we saw Noble Yeats upset the odds when winning at 50/1, with Auroras Encore even longer at 66/1 in 2013. Back in 1963 Ayala won at that same price, as did Russian Hero in 1949 and Rubio in 1908.
For reference, here are some of the longest-odds winners of other notable UK races:
- Epsom Derby – 100/1 – Jeddah in 1898, Signorinetta in 1908 and Aboyeur in1913
- Epsom Oaks – 50/1 – Vespa in 1833, Jet Ski Lady in 1991 and Qualify in 2015
- St Leger Stakes – 200/1 – Theodore in 1822
- 2,000 Guineas – 66/1 – Rockavon in 1961
- 1,000 Guineas – 66/1 – Billesdon Brook in 2018
- Cheltenham Gold Cup – 100/1 – Norton’s Coin in 1990
Do The Bookies Love Or Hate Long Odds Winners?
Those new to racing or betting might reasonably assume that bookies would hate it when a horse wins at a big price. A big price means a bigger payout, or so might be the intuitive thought process. However, as a general rule, bookies prefer it when an outsider wins. Whilst there will be exceptions, the worst result for the bookie is when the favourite wins, because whilst its odds are the shortest, more people have backed it than any other horse in the race.
The absolute worst result for a bookmaker is when an outsider receives lots of support in the market and goes from being a long-odds shot to the head of the market… and then wins. This can happen when connections of the horse are very confident in an underdog and try to stealthily get money on at big odds without the price falling too much. Before long, word gets out to friends of the connections, friends of friends and so on and before long everyone thinks the horse is sure to win. It may not, but when it does this sort of gamble really hurts the bookies.
However, in general, when a horse begins the day at long odds it usually stays quite unfancied. If the horse is sent off with an SP of triple-figure odds this indicates that very little money has been wagered on it. If more money had been gambled on it then the bookmakers would have cut their odds to limit any further liability. Looking back at some of our winners above, we can know that very little was gambled on them.
Looking at one of the most recent huge-odds horses to win, Coral noted that they accepted just a single £2 each way bet on Sawbuck at 300/1. Of the sole punter who won, £724, a spokesperson for the bookie said “Not many punters looked twice at the horse. They clearly saw something others had missed.” So on that race, Coral kept every single stake in the win market, apart from £2. Given they would have accepted tens of thousands of pounds or more on the race, paying out just £724 (plus any further each way wins) represents a pretty good day at the office for the bookmakers.
It was a similar story with He Knows No Fear, another past winner at 300/1. The supposed no-hoper defeated hot favourite Agitare and the majority of money was no doubt on the more fancied even-money shot. Ladbrokes and Coral noted that they had a total of 63 winning bets on the outsider online, but with the largest stake just £2.50 each way. Perhaps surprisingly Paddy Power stated they had nearly 100 customers back the winner, though again for very small stakes.
Looking away from racing and one of the most famous winners at silly odds ever occurred when Leicester claimed the Premier League title in football in 2016. All the reports focussed on punters who had backed the Foxes at 5,000/1 but in truth there were relatively few of these, especially considering the size of the market. This is a popular wager and it attracts tens of millions of pounds in bets, if not more. For reference, at the time of writing, there has already been around £125,000 matched on the 2022/23 PL winner and that is just a couple of weeks after the end of the 2021/22 season and only at one single exchange.
In general the bookies did lose money on Leicester but that was down to the far greater sums that were bet on the Foxes throughout the season at much shorter odds. The bookies and most pundits felt they would surely capitulate but the longer they stayed at the top the more punters began to believe, backing them at 100/1, 66/1, 50/1 and so on until they became the favourites.
However, even this wasn’t a terrible outcome for the bookies because in order for Leicester to win the league there had to be a lot of upsets throughout the cause of the 380-game season. These “shock” results week in, week out, on Leicester but also on teams like Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Spurs and Manchester United, meant that overall the season was highly profitable for bookies in general.
What’s more, when outsiders win it generates huge free publicity for bookies and the industry in general. For every punter who backs a 300/1 shot, a thousand more read about it and think maybe they should have a go at getting lucky, so the bookmakers really do love a winner at long odds.