Jim Culloty joined an elite band who have both trained and ridden a Cheltenham Gold Cup winner when Lord Windermere won a searing, drama charged race on the final day of the Festival.
Culloty, who partnered three-time Gold Cup winner Best Mate, had an anxious few minutes while waiting for the result of stewards’ enquiry into interference before Lord Windermere was confirmed the winner.
“They were the worst few minutes of my life,” said Culloty. “This was so unbelievable that I almost expected to lose the race.
“He won the RSA last year and the obvious thing was to come to the Gold Cup this time. We just tipped away with him and he was not right at Christmas but we kept tipping away.
“I’d told Davy Russell to take his time but half way round I wondered what he was doing - I wanted to sack him! I told him to take his time and ride the horse to get a place but he exaggerated the waiting tactics a bit too much! We’d just said to drop in and take his time and not to panic.
“Everyone has said the horses haven’t been right but I’ve only got 25 horses and 10 of those would be three-year-olds so it’s pretty impressive to have two winners here, including a Gold Cup.”
Culloty makes history as fourth man to ride & train Cheltenham Gold Cup winner
Culloty followed in the footsteps of Fred Winter, Pat Taaffe and Jonjo O’Neill in becoming the fourth man to both ride and train the winner of the Gold Cup.
He partnered Best Mate to three Gold Cup victories - in 2002, 2003 and 2004 - and sent out 20/1 chance Lord Windermere to win a dramatic Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup, following two false starts and a stewards’ enquiry into the closing stages when the first three home came close together.
Lord Windermere, ridden by Davy Russell, beat On His Own (Willie Mullins/David Casey) a short-head, with three quarters of a length back to the third The Giant Bolster (David Bridgwater/Tom Scudamore).
The stewards decided to leave the placings as they were after a lengthy enquiry.
Stewards’ secretary Paul Barton explained: “Clearly there was interference. As the winner has gone for home up the run-in, he has stayed straight for a large part of the run-in and then started to shift right into the whip. In doing so, he moved across onto the second and caused minor interference to the third.
“We looked at how the horses were going at the time, listened to the jockeys’ evidence and on balance we did not think the minor interference had cost the second the race. If we have any doubt, the doubt goes to the horse in front.”