Few would have fancied Monkerhostin to snap a near 30-month losing streak when he lined up in the 2008 renewal of the Bet365 Gold Cup at Sandown.
Philip Hobbs’ runner was a 25-1 shot and seemingly up against it as he tried to claim a first win since beating Kauto Star in the Haldon Gold Cup of November 2005, a race marred by the death of triple Gold Cup hero Best Mate.
Monkerhostin had blotted his copybook for plenty of punters when sent off co-favourite for the previous year’s Grand National won by Silver Birch, not taking to the Aintree fences at all before refusing at the seventh.
But those that kept the faith were handsomely rewarded, with Monkerhostin defying his veteran status as an 11-year-old to run out a two-and-a-quarter-length winner from Royal Auclair in the hands of Richard Johnson.
The four-times champion recalled: “The Bet365 is one of those races you always want to win – the big prize at the end of the season.
“Monkerhostin was a real favourite in the yard, he gave us some great days and finished second in the King George when it was transferred to Sandown.
“He liked decent ground and everything just slotted into place that day.
“He’d not won for a while, but he had run well in lots of big handicaps without winning. There’s a lot of those horses that run well, finish in the places without winning in these 20-runner races, and they don’t have many places to go.”
Monkerhostin was the oldest winner since Mr Frisk had followed up his Grand National win in 1990, but Johnson feels older campaigners can be well suited by the race.
He said: “We were thrilled to win with him and the Bet365 does seem to one of those races that the winner is an up-and-comer or an older horse like him.
“I think horses like Monkerhostin and (2012 winner) Tidal Bay are suited to it. You need a horse that really stays and at that time of year, the choice is really Sandown or Ayr for the Scottish Grand National and it just depends what you decide to go for.”
Monkerhostin was Johnson’s second winner of the Sandown showpiece, although Lacdoudal was very much at the opposite end of the age in 2006.
Sent off at 10-1, the seven-year-old was at the other end of the betting scale, too, having been beaten into second at both Cheltenham and Aintree, he had plenty of supporters.
Lacdoudal had his injury issues following his length-and-a-quarter win at Sandown, but was placed in the race twice more and eventually returned to his peak with a cross-country win at Cheltenham on what was to be his final start in November 2010.
Johnson added: “Lacdoudal had been just touched off at the Cheltenham Festival and he was a really classy horse.
“He wasn’t the biggest, but the race really suited him and I remember he gave me a lovely ride round.
“He was another that liked decent ground and it all clicked for him as well on the day.”