20-1 long shot Lord Windermere made the Cheltenham Gold Cup a nail biter. Although he was at the back of the field for much of the race, the 8-year old gelding ridden by Davy Russell, rallied to win by a half a head with a dramatic sprint. It just goes to show that it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.
The race was fraught with trouble. So many jockeys were injured during races earlier in the day that there was a scramble to re-adjust the ride for the Gold Cup. Then, there were two false starts and a stewards’ inquiry (Lord Windermere drifted to the outside and was reviewed for interference) before the win became official.
Lord Windermere is trained by Jim Culloty, who won three Gold Cups before turning to training. He is only the fourth trainer to have also won the Gold Cup as a jocket.
Compared to American flat racing, English steeplechases are an entirely different sport. While the Kentucky Derby is a mile and a quarter in length and leasts a mere two minutes and change, there is plenty of time for a race like the Cheltenham Gold Cup to unfold. The course is three miles and two and a half furlongs in length, and which includes 22 jumps. It takes tremendous stamina (and strategy) to have a horse fresh enough to sprint up the final hill. In addition, steeplechasers tend to have longer careers. On US tracks, it’s rare to see “older” horses in the big races (Game On Dude’s win in the Santa Anita Handicap was an exception); in the Gold Cup, the favorite Silviniaco Conti is 8; and Bob’s Worth and the Giant Bolster are both 9. Horses race longer and have fewer starts. Lord Windermere has 16 starts, Bob’s Worth has only 14 starts, Silviniaco Conti has 18 starts and Bob’s Worth has 30.
The race is open to horses aged five years and over, is the most prestigious of all National Hunt events. In 2014, the purse was £550,000 ($914,000).