Lord Windermere wins Gold Cup at Cheltenham
CHELTENHAM, England (AP) Lord Windermere stormed through the field in the final stretch to win the Gold Cup in a photo finish in front of a sellout crowd of 67,500 at the Cheltenham Festival on Friday.
After two false starts and a tight finish, the 20-1 horse trained by Jim Culloty and ridden by Davy Russell snatched the prestigious race by a short head ahead of On His Own.
A stewards' inquiry was held at the end of the race because Lord Windermere had drifted into On His Own after they went over the last fence. Officials concluded there was a clear interference but said it was not sufficient to amend the placings.
''I'm obviously delighted and relieved. It was nerve-wracking,'' Russell said after the results were confirmed. ''I knew I was under no pressure and I just took a chance of going down the inside and he's done it.''
Stewards' secretary Paul Barton said that ''on balance we did not think the minor interference had cost the second the race.''
''If we have any doubt, the doubt goes to the horse in front,'' Barton said.
Culloty has now won the race both as a trainer and a jockey after guiding Best Mate to three successive Gold Cups triumphs between 2002 and 2004.
The Giant Bolster finished third while favorite Bobs Worth ended fifth.
''I thought I would win it going over the last,'' said Tom Scudamore, who rode The Giant Bolster. ''I didn't think it would be Lord Windermere, but you have to give credit it was a wonderful effort.''
Bobs Worth's perfect record at Cheltenham came to an end as it failed in its bid to become the first horse to win successive Gold Cups since Best Mate and never looked in contention.
Irish jockey Ruby Walsh had to withdraw from the race after breaking an arm in a fall in the JCB Triumph Hurdle earlier in the day. Riding Abbyssial for Willie Mullins, Walsh was thrown at the first fence and walked to an ambulance holding his right arm. He was the joint-leading rider at the start of the festival's final day with three wins.
A second jockey, Daryl Jacob, also fell and was carried away on a stretcher with multiple injuries.
Jacob's mount, the Paul Nicholls-trained Port Melon, crashed into a rail before the Albert Bartlett Novices' Hurdle, throwing Jacob into a spectator area. Jacob received medical treatment before being taken away. He had just won the preceding race on Lac Fontana.
''It's not great news, I'm afraid,'' Nicholls said. ''It's been confirmed at the hospital he's broken his knee, his leg and his elbow. He's going to be operated on tomorrow morning. It's devastating for him and is going to put him out for a while. Obviously, he's desperately disappointed.''
The British Horseracing Authority later announced that Raya Star became the fourth horse to be put down at the Festival after being injured in the Grand Annual.
''Sad to confirm Raya Star, after assessment by vets, was humanely put down due to suspected fractured spine,'' the British Horseracing Authority said on Twitter.
Akdam and Stack The Deck were also euthanized on day two of the festival, following the death of Our Conor on the opening day.