Winters primed for Cheltenham success with Chatham Street Lad

Cork trainer bids to saddle first Irish-trained winner of Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in 15 years

Jockey Robbie Power celebrates winning the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap aboard Missunited with trainer Michael Winters. File photograph: Inpho

Jockey Robbie Power celebrates winning the Guinness Galway Hurdle Handicap aboard Missunited with trainer Michael Winters. File photograph: Inpho

 

Michael Winters will try to break his Cheltenham duck on Saturday when Chatham Street Lad lines up in one of the top handicap prizes of this year at the home of National Hunt racing.

The Co Cork trainer is on course to try and saddle a first Irish-trained winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup in 15 years.

In a race with a spectacular roll of honour, only Sir OJ in 2005 has scored from Ireland in the last two decades.

Chatham Street Lad is the sole Irish hope to try and bridge that gap this weekend as Winters attempts to win for the first time at Cheltenham.

The point-to-point stalwart has enjoyed notable successes over the years including back-to-back Galway Hurdle victories with Rebel Fitz (2012) and Missunited (2013.)

The latter was also third past the post in the 2014 Ascot Gold Cup and subsequently promoted to second when the Queen’s runner Estimate was disqualified for failing a drugs test.

High-profile wins have been more scarce in recent years but Winters’ Kanturk yard is in rare form with three wins from the last seven runners.

That includes Chatham Street Lad, who won easily at Cork last month and is a general 14-1 shot for Saturday’s big race.

Among Mayo’s finest

He is owned by Mayo hotelier Vivan Healy and connections plan to make the most of owners being allowed go racing in England.

“It’s the first time in a long time the owners will be able to go to the races and they’re looking forward to it and the company. The horse is in the form of his life, he’s on a winning roll and you’d hope he’d be there jumping the last,” said Winters on Tuesday.

Exuberant celebrations have greeted the trainer’s big-race victories in the past, but just two previous runners at Cheltenham failed to provoke such scenes.

Rebel Fitz was beaten in a two-horse race there in 2013 and Winters’ only festival runner, Phelans Fancy in the 2005 Foxhunters, could finish only 12th.

“At least it’s great to have been there already so you’re not totally at sea. The first time you go, it’s like someone starting a new job on the first day,” added Winters.

Champion conditional jockey Darragh O’Keeffe, from near Winters in Doneraile, is “95 per cent certain” to team up with Chatham Street Lad on Saturday.

He rode the horse once before, at Galway, prior to Chatham Street Lad winning at Cork under Conor Orr.

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