Willie Wumpkins is one of a select band of horses to have won four times at the Cheltenham Festival, but his record is all the more remarkable for the fact that his first victory was fully eight years before his last. Originally trained in Ireland by Adrian Maxwell and ridden by Pat Colville, Willie Wumpkins opened his Festival account, as a five-year-old, in 1973, winning the Aldworth Hurdle (now the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle) at 11/1.
However, it wasn’t until much later in his career, now trained under permit by his owner Mrs. Jane Pilkington, that he returned to Prestbury Park to contest the Coral Golden Hurdle Final (now the Pertemps Network Final) in 1979. Ridden by Mrs. Pilkington’s son-in-law, Mr. Jim Wilson, arguably the best amateur jockey of his day, the 11-year-old revelled in the testing conditions and, despite carrying overweight, won easily at odds of 25/1. The partnership returned for the same race again in 1980 – the year in which Wilson became just the third amateur to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, on Little Owl – and won again, at 10/1. Willie Wumpkins, now 13, and Wilson were back again in 1981, justifying odds of 13/2 to a tremendous reception.
Amazingly, Willie Wumpkins never won anything of consequence anywhere other than the Cheltenham Festival; he won just 7 of his 65 races over obstacles, but four of those wins were at the Festival. He enjoyed a happy retirement in the Cotswolds and died in 1995 at the ripe old age of 27.