As far as shocks in the recent history of National Hunt racing go, the victory of Snoopy Loopy in the Betfair Chase at Haydock 10 years ago is close to the top.
Defeating none other than dual Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Kauto Star, the then 10-year-old secured what was to be his most notable triumph on the final start of his career.
Though the Peter Bowen-trained gelding will always be remembered for his Grade One heroics at the Lancashire track, his career with the Haverfordwest handler started in rather inauspicious fashion.
Bowen said: “We paid £120,000 for him, which was plenty of money and he started off being really disappointing.
“When I first ran him he got beat in a novice chase at Worcester by another one of mine, then he had a year off as he got a leg injury. It took a long time to get him back, but luckily he came good.
“When we got him he was rated in the 120s over hurdles and he won his first chase off 108. Once he got his head in front the first time for us, he just kept on improving.”
After five failed attempts the Dai Walters-owned son of Old Vic gained his first win for Bowen in a three-and-a-quarter-mile handicap chase at Chepstow in February of 2008, which was to be one of four victories gained ahead of his ‘David v Goliath’ moment.
Bowen said: “He had a good season all the way through the summer and he had run really well in the Old Roan and Charlie Hall.
“I think for him confidence was massive, as once he started winning races he became more confident in himself.
“He had quite a hard season and he was not getting any younger, so it was just about taking what we could that season, as he was 10 by then.
“He won the Summer Plate, but you couldn’t imagine for one moment he would then go and win a Betfair Chase, as it is a different league on different ground. We were not even thinking about beating Kauto Star.
“The Betfair is usually a race that cuts up and doesn’t have many runners, and I thought if he comes back in the first four he will have earned some decent prize-money.”
Looking booked for a place at best when vying for third with Exotic Dancer over the last, the 33-1 shot took full advantage of Kauto Star’s final-fence unseat of Sam Thomas when responding to every question asked by Seamus Durack before conquering Tamarinbleu by half a length.
Bowen said: “Kauto Star was obviously not quite right on the day, as we were not really in the same league as him. To be honest I can’t remember too much about the day – but it was great to win such a race.
“Kauto Star was obviously a great horse, so to beat a horse like that was amazing. He was probably up to being as good as Tamarinbleu, but he wouldn’t be in the same league as Kauto Star on a good day.
“It would have been one of my biggest wins, but for me it was just another normal day of going home in the horse box afterwards – mind you, it was a much better journey back than a bad day at the races!”
Bowen happily reports Snoopy Loopy still going strong at the ripe old age of 20.
He said: “He goes out hunting and does racehorse-to-riding classes now.
“He is loving life and enjoying his retirement.”
And while he may not be responsible for any of the five representatives in this weekend’s renewal of the three-mile contest, Bowen does not believe another Snoopy Loopy-style shock will happen on this occasion.
He added: “I personally think Might Bite will win it. I think the track will suit him and the ground
“Bristol De Mai wants soft ground and Native River wants softer ground and probably a stiffer track, so I think the conditions and everything are in favour of Might Bite.”