The lucky longshots – famous bets which show the Foxes 5000-1 dream could come true

Leicester City’s season, if nothing else, shows how the thought of longshot miracles can capture the world’s attention. Fewer than 35 football games ago, the Foxes were 5,000-1 to win the Premier League title come May. They were write-offs, bound for relegation in most pundits’ eyes.

And yet, for dozens of punters, the lure of the longshot was just too tempting. Skybet has said 75 people put money on the Foxes at 5,000-1, bets totalling £212.07. William Hill said it has 25 active bets at the original, staggeringly long price, at stakes between 5p and £20.

Most of these gambles would have been made in a casual, bet-and-forget way - a Leicester City fan with a sense of humour and a buoyant optimism making a symbolic gesture. But now those smiles have disappeared, to be replaced with wide-eyed wonder and a growing level of unearthly excitement. Could it actually happen? Really?

Well, maybe; it’s happened before. Here are some of the great longshots which either came off, or came agonisingly close:

  • In the 2010 African Cup of Nations, Mali were 4-0 down to Angola. Someone thought Mali could come back with 79 mins on the clock. He put £5 on at 1,000/1. Mali then scored twice before 90 mins and put another two away in injury time.
  • At the 1996 Royal Ascot, Frankie Dettori was on 25,095-1 to win all seven of the races. He pulled it off and some lucky guy who’d put £59 on it won £550,000
  • Back in 2003, gambler Nick Newlife was so impressed by tennis star Roger Federer’s first Wimbledon win that he put £1,520 down on the Swiss maestro to win the tournament seven times by 2019. Mr Newlife died in 2009, the bet unsettled, leaving the betting slip to Oxfam; in 2012, Federer won the elusive seventh title, triggering the 66-1 odds and a donated windfall of £101,840 for Oxfam.

It’s not just sport. Politicians and cultural diviners have also committed to some high-stakes affairs:

  • Current Tory MP for North Swindon and Minister for Disabled People, Justin Tomilinson, has a bet on himself to be PM, a £50 stake at 10,000/1. Still a live bet, so you never know.
  • Screaming Lord Sutch once put a bet on himself to be PM - but the odds were a much more realistic 15,000,000-1.
  • Back in 1989, a 40-year-old man stuck £30 on a bizarre accumulator that looked ahead to 2000 and predicted: Cliff Richard being knighted by then; pop act U2 remaining a group; EastEnders still being shown on the BBC as a weekly soap opera, and Australian soaps Neighbours and Home and Away still appearing on British television.

The odds were 6,479-1. Come January 2000, and the same man/wizard turned up to collect his winnings of £194,400.

So, for those prescient few still holding on to their 5,000-1 Leicester City slips, from time to time longshots can hit home – and right in the heart of the bullseye.

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