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The Greatest Comeback: New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI or Lester Piggott in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Mile?

Drew Goodsell | 5 June 2020

Which comeback gets your vote in today’s poll?

Our search for the Greatest Comeback in sports history continues, with two more notable contenders to take the title on Day Three.

So far, we’ve looked at Aldaniti’s Grand National triumph, Ian Botham’s Ashes heroics at Headingley, Stuart Pearce’s Euro 96 penalty redemption and Lasse Viren’s 10,000m Olympic gold.

But today, it’s the turn of the New England Patriots Super Bowl LI victory, taking on Lester Piggott & Royal Academy’s 1990 Breeders’ Cup Mile win.

Which of these two gets your pick to make it through to our last eight? It’s down to you to decide.

Greatest Comeback 3

New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI

Tom Brady New England Patriots Super Bowl LI

Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots side may have been the overwhelming favourites to win Super Bowl LI pre-game, but they didn’t have it all their own way. In fact, their challengers on the night, Atlanta Falcons, seemingly hadn’t read the pre-game script at all.

The 2016 NFL Season was a campaign to remember for the Patriots. Despite being without quarterback Tom Brady for the first four matches, they topped the AFC with a regular season record of 14-2, only losing to Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks.

They finished two wins clear of their nearest AFC challengers Kansas City Chiefs, picking up the top seed and gaining a first-round bye in the playoffs.

They breezed through their Divisional playoff matchup against Houston Texans, before a dominant AFC Championship win over Pittsburgh Steelers led them to Super Bowl LI in Houston.

Belichick, Brady and the Patriots were on their hunt for a fifth Vince Lombardi trophy in 15 seasons, and after the first quarter in Houston, where it remained scoreless, it still appeared to be on.

A disastrous second quarter followed. The Falcons broke through the Patriots resolve with ease, scoring three touchdowns and 21 unanswered points.

With only seconds remaining in the first half, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski hit one through the posts to give a glimmer of hope. Patriots were 21-3 down at the interval.

Things got worse shortly after the restart, with Tevin Coleman scoring the Falcons fourth touchdown and widening the gap to 28-3. But with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, the comeback started.

James White grabbed a five-yard pass from Brady to go over, before Gostkowski struck another field goal to drag it back to 28-12 with just under 10 minutes left on the clock.

Danny Amendola narrowed the margin further, before White ran over from a yard to tie the game with 57 seconds left, taking the game to overtime.

With the ball in Brady’s hand, New England didn’t give up possession in overtime. Only 3 minutes and 58 seconds in, White landed in the endzone again, after an eight-play drive over 75 yards. The comeback was complete. Belichick, Brady and the Patriots had masterminded the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Lester Piggott & Royal Academy in the 1990 Breeders’ Cup Mile

Lester Piggott Lupescu

Lester Piggott was widely regarded as one of the greatest flat racing jockeys of all time. He was an 11-time British flat racing Champion Jockey, winning his first title in the 1960 season and picking up his last in 1982.

The awards didn’t stop there either, with Piggott one of the most decorated jockeys of all time. Notably, he’d ridden 11 Gold Cup winners at Royal Ascot and nine Epsom Derby victories, as well as five wins in the 2,000 Guineas.

Piggott decided to step down from the saddle at the end of the 1985 flat racing season to pursue a career as a trainer instead, where he housed 97 horses and sent out 34 winners.

His career as a trainer was ended abruptly after Piggott was convicted of tax fraud and jailed. He served 366 days in prison and was stripped of his OBE, which he’d previously been awarded in 1975.

Fast forward to 1990 and Piggott was back in the saddle. This time, he was gearing up for the prestigious Breeders’ Cup Mile, where he’d mount the favourite Royal Academy after being called up by Irish trainer Vincent O’Brien to fill the void of John Reid, who missed out through injury.

The Breeders’ Cup World Championships are an annual season-ending event featuring the best Thoroughbreds in every division of racing, with the Breeders’ Cup Mile a Grade 1 event on turf for thoroughbreds three years old or older.

Piggott made an unsuccessful comeback to his racing return in Leicester, where he finished as runner-up by a matter of inches on his first ride back, with two more losers to follow. He’d return to the winner’s enclosure the following day at Chepstow, winning two races.

Only 12 days after his comeback at Leicester, the now 54-year-old Piggott mounted Royal Academy and rode to victory over the mile.

He produced an exquisite ride aboard the three-year old Irish thoroughbred colt to win the $1 Million event after charging up with a late sweeping run on the outside to cross the line ahead of 36/1 shot Itsallgreektome by a neck.

Piggott went on to ride another Classic winner in the 1992 2,000 Guineas, where he guided Rodrigo de Triano to victory before officially hanging up his silks in 1995, ahead of the new British flat racing season.

Cast your vote

There are our latest two contenders for the Greatest Comeback in the history of sport. But which do you prefer? Let us know in our Twitter poll.

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All odds and markets are correct as of date of publication.