Monday 19 February 2018

Thrills, spills and joy unconfined for 'Lucky Jim'

Davy Russell celebrates winning the BetFred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on Lord Windermere
Davy Russell celebrates winning the BetFred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase on Lord Windermere
Louise Hogan

Louise Hogan

THEY were the longest few minutes of his life.

A hush descended over the stands as racegoers strained to hear whether the anxiously hovering Corkman was in fact going to get to wrap his hands around that coveted Gold Cup.

A deafening roar left no one under any illusions that Lady Luck was shining on trainer Jim Culloty as 33-1 long shot Lord Windermere was confirmed as the champion.

The stewards inquiry was "the worst minutes of my life," confessed Culloty, who won a hat-trick of Gold Cups as jockey on Best Mate.

Those tense minutes were soon to be followed by the best.

All the favourites had been vanquished but the punters were delighted nonetheless. "I really can't believe it, I can't believe the jockey," said Culloty.

Jockey Davy Russell said it was a dream, after winning multiple Gold Cups in his head as a young fella.

There was glitz and glamour aplenty with singer Lily Allen spotted dashing through the crowds. Less glitzy but still dashing was former Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson. And 'Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson was also spotted.

On the track there were crashing falls and horses plunging over rails. One horse almost deposited its jockey atop a Channel 4 cameraman. But most of all there were plenty of Irish flags entering the coveted enclosure.

One fearful moment involved jockey Ruby Walsh. Footage had flashed up on the big screens of Walsh flipping through the air, as his horse went over on him in a crashing fall, leaving horses trying to dodge the stricken jockey.


It sent his father, racing commentator Ted Walsh, sprinting towards the track with his daughter just behind him.

Ruby stood, splashes of blood on his clothes, clutching a visibly stricken arm, which was later confirmed to be fractured.

Davy Russell had a much better day, returning to the winners' podium for a hat-trick of wins – twice with those famous maroon and purple colours of O'Leary's Gigginstown on his back, only months after losing his role as retained jockey for the stable.

The opportunity arose after his younger replacement Bryan Connell was left stricken after a fall earlier in the week.

"Ah it doesn't matter what colours I have on my back as long as I'm riding horses," said Davy.

"If you don't have a winner, it is a long tough week, but a winner anywhere in the four days makes it a wonderful week," said Michael O'Leary – who went on to notch up four on the day.

It was the turn of Rachel Clarke to welcome husband-to-be Paul Carberry on Very Wood in O'Leary's colours in the Novices Hurdle race.

It was a double celebration after the pair revealed they got engaged on Paul's 40th three weeks ago. "Next year we'll do the deed," said a happy Rachel.

Irish Independent

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