Saturday 18 November 2017

Patience pays off for Culloty as throwback stayer Windermere pounces in RSA Chase

Eventual winner Lord Windermere ridden by Davy Russell (left) in a race to line with Lyreen Legend ridden by Bryan Cooper as Boston Bob falls in the background in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham yesterday
Eventual winner Lord Windermere ridden by Davy Russell (left) in a race to line with Lyreen Legend ridden by Bryan Cooper as Boston Bob falls in the background in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham yesterday
Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

If Sprinter Sacre's imperious Queen Mother Champion Chase rout confirmed his status as the quintessential two-mile chaser, there was something apt about Lord Windermere's emergence in embryonic form on the same gripping Cheltenham card.

A memorable first Festival winner as a trainer for three-time Gold Cup-winning jockey Jim Culloty in what was a dramatic RSA Chase, the handsome seven-year-old is a throwback to the more old-fashioned, Irish-bred stayer.

After Willie Mullins' Boston Bob crashed out while still in the lead at the last, Lord Windermere (8/1) knuckled down for Davy Russell to reel in Dessie Hughes' Lyreen Legend up the hill.

A stout, slow-maturing specimen, he had won just one of his five previous chasing starts. That, though, was largely down to Culloty's refusal to veer from his patient philosophy.

Despite Lord Windermere frequently showing that he needed this sort of extended three-mile trip, yesterday was the first time in his life that he ran him over it.

The prestigious Grade One was his Killarney-born handler's chief target this season, and he had no intention of undermining his long-term potential before March.

"We took the chance of not running him over three miles all season because I didn't want to tire him out on bad ground," an elated Culloty explained.

"I wanted a horse with experience but one that hadn't been bottomed, and it has worked. He is a good horse. I could have brought him here last year and he would have run a big race in a hurdle, but we minded him because we wanted a big chaser, which is what he is now."

Since Culloty began his training career at a purpose-built, state-of-the-art yard in Churchtown, Co Cork in 2006, there will have been times in this modern world of instant results when such traditional values had their drawbacks.

However, he stuck to his principles, and this horse's owner Dr Ronan Lambe bought into them, too.

After all, Churchtown, just a stone's throw from where steeplechasing has its 18th century origins in Buttevant, is the very village from which the legendary Vincent O'Brien sent out four Gold Cup winners. It is an area steeped in the game's origins.

Russell, of course, is intrinsically associated with this sort of horse in his role with Gigginstown, and he excelled here, quietly creeping into contention down the inside.

Irish Independent

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