Robbie McNamara a poignant Kim Muir winner on Spring Heeled
Tony McCoy claims first winner of week with Taquin Du Seuil
Taquin Du Seuil ridden by Tony McCoy (right) ahead of Double Ross and Samuel Twiston-Davies before winning the JLT Novices’ Chase at Cheltenham. Photograph: David Davies/PA
Cheltenham – Day 3: There was a poignant winner of the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup as Robbie McNamara partnered Spring Heeled to victory in the final race of the day at Cheltenham.
McNamara’s cousin, JT McNamara, was left paralysed from a fall in the same race 12 months ago. Riding for Jim Culloty, famous for the three Gold Cup wins of Best Mate, McNamara had won the closing bumper on Wednesday in the same Dr Ronan Lambe colours on Silver Concorde.
McNamara got his mount into a beautiful rhythm at the head of affairs and despite market leaders Indian Castle and Cause Of Causes looming large, McNamara had saved enough to kick on again. A mistake at the last from Cause Of Causes secured the win for Spring Heeled, to give Culloty his second Festival win after Lord Windermere 12 months ago.
Roberto Goldback was third with Balnaslow fourth. It was Culloty’s first winner since August.
“That was unbelievable,” said Culloty. “He was a bit fractious as a young horse, a bit of a worrier and as a result of giving him time he ended up well handicapped. I thought if things went his way he had a right chance but there were 24 runners so he needed luck.
“After jumping the first I couldn’t have asked for anything better as he got a soft lead, and he had the right jockey on his back to give him a great ride from the front. You could call him the winner after jumping the first. I hope I’m here at the same time tomorrow (when Lord Windermere runs in the Gold Cup).”
McNamara said: “We didn’t really have a game plan, Jim said to jump off handy in fifth or sixth but they didn’t go mad and I was happy to just lob away in front. From some way out I was thinking that as long as he jumped his fences it would take a good one to come and get him.
“I didn’t know the runner-up was behind until I was just about to land and I heard something give it a clout. He’d run well here before and Jim just blamed the ground the last time, without that he could have been favourite today — Jim fancied him big time. This is lovely, yesterday was more of a relief as I’d been trying for so long to get one here. I’ll never forget that first one but this is magic, too.”
The day opened with Tony McCoy putting the pain to one side as he claimed his first win of the 2014 Festival, partnering Taquin Du Seuil to victory in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
The Jonjo O’Neill-trained 7 to 1 shot was noted moving into contention at the top of the hill and he swooped after the last to deny game front-runner Uxizandre, owned by JP McManus.
Double Ross made it a thrilling three-way duel but had to settle for minor honours in a tight finish.
McCoy, who suffered a heavy fall in the Fred Winter Handicap on Wednesday, said: “I’m a bit gutted I beat my boss (McManus), but obviously delighted for Jonjo.
“I always had great faith in this horse, he stays well and is quite cute, he saves a little bit for himself. I’m delighted for Jonjo. He’s a great fellow to work for.”