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Cheltenham Festival Memories: Norton’s Coin 1990 Gold Cup

| 26.02.2015

The nation’s favourite grey Desert Orchid was sent off the 10/11 favourite for the Gold Cup back in 1990, but it was a horse trained by a Welsh farmer that landed the spoils at 100/1 and caused the biggest upset ever in the history of chasing’s blue riband event.

Norton’s Coin was one of just three horses that Sirrel Griffiths trained among his herd of cows at his farm in Nantgaredig, near Carmarthen.

The nine-year-old wasn’t bred to be a star, as he was the product of a stallion which Griffiths bought for just 700 guineas and out of a mare picked up for less than £500 by the canny Welshman.

This gelding had been beaten 39 lengths by Desert Orchid in the Kinge George, and failed to win a race during the season heading into Cheltenham.

However, Griffiths didn’t lose faith in Norton’s Coin and believed he had a chance of getting in the first four “with a bit of luck”.
Winning the race hadn’t even entered his mind, but the fairytale was to come true.

Desert Orchid set off in his usual front-running role and led the field a merry gallop.

The cheers went up from an expectant crowd as the David Elsworth trained 11-year-old rounded the home still contesting the lead, but the pack had closed approaching the second last and Norton’s Coin was among them travelling strongly.

Toby Tobias then took up the running two from home as Dessie began to flounder and looked all over the winner after jumping the last in front.

But Graham McCourt still had still had one last card to play aboard Norton’s Coin and produced him with a well-timed challenge on the famous uphill run to the line to get up and score by 3/4 of a length.

The victory stunned the huge crowd, and Griffiths himself could not believe that having milked the cows earlier in the morning he was going into the winners’enclosure to pick up the coveted trophy from the Queen Mother.

He had bred, owned and trained the winner and showed what can be achieved when you dare to dream. Relive this monumental Cheltenham upset below:



David Metcalf

A lifelong Manchester United supporter, David has over 25 years’ experience in the media industry having worked for regional and national newspapers. He is a huge horse racing, football and greyhound fan and has done interviews on various radio and TV stations, including talkSPORT and Sky Sports, whilst working as a PR front man for a betting firm. David has also written for most of the top Premier League football fan websites, and produced a Cheltenham Festival guide with former eight-times champion national hunt jockey Peter Scudamore, MBE, after helping him to set up a syndicate for his trainer son Michael.