Lord Windermere edges a thriller to win the Gold Cup from On His OwnPICTURE: Patrick McCann (racingpost.com/photos)
Cheltenham Festival: Windermere grabs heart-stopping win in Gold Cup
Report: Cheltenham Festival, Friday
Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup (Grade 1), 3m2½f, 5yo+
LORD WINDERMERE is the new best mate of trainer Jim Culloty after grabbing a heart-stopping win at 20-1 from On His Own.
Culloty and connections had to survive a stewards' inquiry into interference between the first two and third-placed The Giant Bolster in a grandstand rush to the line.
Davy Russell on Lord Windermere carried the other two across the track towards the stands in holding on by a short head and three quarters of a length.
However, the stewards ruled that the result should stand, sparking pandemonium in the winner's enclosure centred around the smiling Culloty, whose place in Cheltenham folklore is founded on his three consecutive Gold Cup wins as a jockey on Best Mate.
Victory sealed a rare hat-trick for Lord Windermere's owner Dr Ronan Lambe, whose three festival runners have all won. His dream week began on Wednesday when the Dermot Weld-trained Silver Concorde won the Champion Bumper before Spring Heeled, trained by Culloty, won the Kim Muir on Thursday.
In one of the most dramatic runs from the final fence in Gold Cup memory, Silviniaco Conti jumped the last in front from last year's winner Bobs Worth, the 6-4 favourite, but the eye was rapidly drawn to the first three home charging for all they were worth up the near side.
The Giant Bolster's bid ran out of gas with just a few strides to run but the tussle between Lord Windermere and On His Own was not resolved until the line as the crowd rose to a captivating finish to the week's big race.
As those involved in the finish digested the announcement of an inquiry, Graham Wylie, owner of the Willie Mullins-trained On His Own, said: "I'm not the expert but Willie says there is a chance that they will turn it around. David [Casey] said there was interference, he was pushed to the side."
Culloty had to temper his initial joy as the inquiry was announced and instead reflected on Russell's fearless ride having kept Lord Windermere at the back for much of the contest.
"Halfway around Davy Russell was getting the sack!" Culloty said.
"Davy rode him last time and it was a false-run race and we were disgusted by it. Davy came in and had a smile on his face after being beaten 25 lengths and said to Dr Lambe ‘take no notice, it will be different at Cheltenham'. Quite literally, I can't believe it."
Davy Russell celebrates Gold Cup glory on Lord Windermere PICTURE: Getty Images
Russell could scarcely believe he had won on a horse who looked to be struggling for so much of the race. "I can't believe it he was never on the bridle," he said, "never in the race."
He added: "The whole field was in front of me. I just sat and suffered the whole way. He jumped brilliant and I didn't use any petrol on the inside the whole way."
Silviniaco Conti finished fourth and Bobs Worth fifth. However, the outcome of the 2014 Gold Cup may yet be decided at appeal.
Mullins added: "I’ll have a chat with the owner and see what he wants to do, talk to David [Casey] and see what he thinks and talk to people that know a little more than I do as the appeal will be in England and I need to see what the chances are of us getting a result.
"It’s a nice prize to win but it is not necessarily the way you want to do it. We’ll see what happens."
The race began only after two false starts, the first called when Houblon Des Obeaux ran very wide as the tape went up and the second when one of the starting team was still on the running line in front of the tape.