Jim Culloty hoping Spring Heeled can end season on a high
Now that winning drought is over the options are there to keep trainer on his roll
Jim Culloty’s barren run was ended when Spring Heeled, with Robbie McNamara on board, won the Kim Muir Challenge Cup at Cheltenham in March. Photograph: Getty Images.
Jim Culloty hopes a dizzying season that has taken the Co Cork-based trainer from a winner drought to the peak of Cheltenham Gold Cup success can wind up on another big-race high this Saturday when Spring Heeled lines up at Sandown.
Lord Windermere’s sensational Gold Cup victory put a rare seal on Culloty’s dramatic return to winning form last month but after a barren run stretching back to 2013, it was Spring Heeled’s Kim Muir victory a couple of days beforehand at Cheltenham that proved a corner had been turned.
With the Gold Cup hero on his summer holidays, it is Spring Heeled who continues to fly the Culloty flag with the Bet365 Gold Cup – formerly the Whitbred – his preferred target on Saturday at the wind-up of the 2013/’14 British National Hunt season.
Spring Heeled also holds an entry in next Tuesday’s Growise Champion Chase at Punchestown but it is another trip across the Irish Sea that Culloty and owner, Dr Ronan Lambe, have opted for.
Whether or not he lines up in the big handicap or the Listed Oaksey Chase on the same card depends on Bury Parade, the horse above Spring Heeled in the Bet 365 handicap, also taking part in the feature event.
“If Bury Parade runs, then we will have 11.5 and I’d be happy enough with that. But if the weights go up a load, then I’ve left him in the other race as an option. But the plan is to run in the Bet365 and he’s already on his way to Sandown,” Culloty said yesterday.
Robbie McNamara rode Spring Heeled to his Cheltenham triumph but Davy Russell takes over this weekend.
“I never won it as a jockey and it’s not something I remember being placed in either,” Culloty added of a contest last won by an Irish-trained hope when Michael Hourigan’s Church Island scored under Adrian Heskin four years ago.
The only other Irish entry for the marathon three-mile, five-furlong highlight is Tony Martin’s Gallant Oscar, like Spring Heeled a 16 to 1 shot in some ante-post betting lists, but he ran in Monday’s Irish Grand National where he unseated his rider Davy Condon at the 13th fence. Condon sustained an arm injury and will be out of action until next week’s Punchestown Festival following the fall.
Mover in betting
The Nigel Twiston-Davies-trained Same Difference was a mover in the betting yesterday and is now disputing favouritism in some lists at 10 to 1.
In other National Hunt news, Paul Carberry appears likely to wait for Punchestown next week before returning to action from the bruised ribs he suffered at Fairyhouse on Monday. Carberry missed out on riding in the Irish National after taking a fall from Silver Tassie in a hurdle race.
“He’ll probably have the week off,” said Carberry’s agent, Ciaran O’Toole. “I’d say he’ll start back at Punchestown next Tuesday. We’ll just see how he is.”