Sporting Advent Calendar #11: Lord Windermere wins Cheltenham Gold Cup

Wylie’s decision not to appeal result saved the BHA from having rules held up to a light which reason would surely have scorched with mockery

The British Horseracing Authority probably don't do Christmas cards but if they did, Graham Wylie's would probably be extra-big.

The English owner's decision not to appeal the Cheltenham Gold Cup result saved the BHA from having its interference rules held up to a light which reason would surely have scorched with mockery.

No one could begrudge Lord Windermere's jockey Davy Russell, or trainer Jim Culloty, or indeed owner, Dr Ronan Lambe, a victory in steeplechasing's blue-riband: Russell's ultra-patient ride in particular was outstanding.

But the 20-1 Lord Windermere drifted dramatically left up the run-in, preventing both the Wylie-owned On His Own, and The Giant Bolster in third, from running to the post in a straight-line.


On His Own came up short by a short-head. It looked like in another stride or two he would have edged ahead.

The initial reaction was that the stewards ducked making a tough call in one of the most high-profile races of the year. In reality, they could argue they were only imposing the rules as they stand, both in Britain and Ireland. But the rules are asinine, and continue to be, in continuing to favour the transgressor rather than the victim to such an extent.

On His Own's trainer Willie Mullins left the question of an appeal to Wylie, and Wylie said it would be have been unsporting, so he didn't. The Englishman was widely praised for that. But ultimately might he have erred, because exposing the rules to the white-light of high-profile scrutiny could ultimately have focused minds on the greater long-term good.

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor

Brian O'Connor is the racing correspondent of The Irish Times. He also writes the Tipping Point column