Many dyed-in-the-wool punters spend hours poring over the formbook in an effort to win a life-changing sum of money but, ironically, the punter who won the largest winning dividend in the history of the Tote Jackpot was, by his own admission, ‘not a horse racing man’. The punter in question was, in fact, Steve Whiteley, a 61-year-old heating engineer from North Tawton, North Devon, who was not a regular racegoer and attended a meeting at Exeter Racecourse, in March 2011, as part of a free promotion.
Having scrapped his original, permed Tote Jackpot entry, Whiteley settled, instead, for a single line entry, costing just £2. Nevertheless, he correctly predicted the first four winners – Semi Colon at 2/1, Black Phantom at 12/1, Ammunition at 16/1 and Mr. Bennett at 16/1 – and, by that stage, just seven entries remained. His fifth selection, Lundy Sky, at 5/1, also won at the expense of odds-on favourite Glitzy D’Ocala leaving his the only ticket remaining in the Tote Jackpot.
His sixth, and final, selection, Lupita, was on a losing run of twenty-eight and was ridden by Jessica Lodge, an amateur rider who had yet to ride a winner under National Hunt rules. Whiteley said afterwards that ‘Lodge is just a name that sticks in my head’. Perhaps understandably, Lupita was sent off 12/1 joint-seventh choice of the thirteen runners, but belied those odds by keeping on gamely to lead inside the last hundred yards and lift the spoils by three-quarters of a length. In so doing, the seven-year-old won an incredulous Whiteley £1,445,671.