Jim Culloty hopes Lord Windermere can bounce back in Hennessy Gold Cup
Leopardstown race could see almost all of Ireland’s Gold Cup contenders take their chance
Lord Windermere (left), ridden by Davy Russell, lands last year’s RSA Chase at the Cheltenham Festival.
Lord WindermereCheltenhamGold CupJim Culloty
Last year’s RSA hero has failed to make an impact in two starts this season, part of a frustrating campaign for Culloty overall. Lord Windermere, though, could get the opportunity to put all that in the past in Sunday week’s Hennessy Gold Cup.
Certainly a good performance at Leopardstown will rejuvenate hopes that the eight-year-old can again make his presence felt at Cheltenham. Currently he is a general 33/1 shot for the Gold Cup after finishing out of the money in both Newbury’s Hennessy and the Lexus at Leopardstown earlier this season.
“The Hennessy is currently the plan, but only if I’m happy with him. The horses have been wrong for a while and I’m nearly afraid to run anything at the moment,” Culloty explained yesterday. “The horse was wrong in himself in the Lexus and the ground was quick in the Hennessy so it’s been a frustrating time.”
It’s over 150 days since the Co Cork-based trainer’s last winner but just as the man who rode Best Mate to three Gold Cup triumphs boasts a cast-iron Cheltenham pedigree, Lord Windermere also proved his festival credentials with a memorable RSA success in 2013.
Davy Russell was on board on that occasion when the partnership overhauled Lyreen Wonder up the final hill. That horse is also a likely starter at Leopardstown, a race that could see almost all of Ireland’s Gold Cup contenders take their chance.
First Lieutenant is currently a 5/2 Hennessy favourite with Rubi Ball sharing 4/1 second-favouritism alongside Last Instalment.
Our Conor and Jezki had to bow to Hurricane Fly for the second time this season at Leopardstown over the weekend, a fact that isn’t stopping the connections of both horses from hoping it will be third time lucky at Cheltenham in March.
Our Conor closed the gap to Hurricane Fly from Christmas to a length and a half in the BHP Irish Champion Hurdle, something that has helped any initial disappointment felt by trainer Dessie Hughes at being beaten on Sunday. “We were a bit disappointed as it looked as though he might have it won at one stage but I’m thrilled he improved which I thought he would,” Hughes reported. “He’s just a bit young and for a five-year-old to do that, I think it was a tremendous performance. Being a young horse he should improve and I think Cheltenham improved him last year.
“He was definitely a stone better horse last year at Cheltenham. He appeared to love the track and he’s definitely a better horse on better ground.”
Jezki was runner-up to Hurricane Fly at Christmas but finished last of the four last Sunday, something his trainer Jessica Harrington believes was down to the horse running too freely in the early stages.
“We decided to drop him in, that was the plan, and he just ran too free and too keen,” she said yesterday. “I was very happy with the way he jumped, but you can’t run as keen as that in a race like that. He still wasn’t beaten far and all being well, he’ll be at Cheltenham in March.”