Culhane was having a quiet season here in 2012, with nine winners from just 99 rides, with the pick of those being Reg Hollinshead’s Cloudy Spirit in the last race on Dante day at York in May. It was fitting that the veteran trainer should provide him with one of his last winners here, as Culhane was one of several top jockeys who spent some time as an apprentice in his yard.
Hollinshead received the Peter O’Sullevan Award in 2009, partly in recognition of his work as a tutor for young jockeys, and said then of Culhane, “He and the other lads were always willing to learn, it was like a little academy here and the strict regime that I had with them must have worked and I believe that they were all very grateful of that.”
His agent Mark Gilchrist explained the reasons for Culhane’s decision to move. He said, “Tony left last month after he received a good offer to ride out there. He’d been out riding in India for the last couple of winters, so he is well known there, and in 2011 he rode the winner of the Hyderabad Derby. He has started off well, as on his first day back there last month he rode a treble.”
The move will represent a new opportunity with a clean slate for Culhane, who was twice in serious trouble with racing’s officials. Ten years ago he eased up too much on an odds on favourite at Pontefract and was suspended for 21 days when he lost the race, and in 2007 he received a 12-month ban for passing inside information.
After the ban he was unable to reach the level of success he had previously enjoyed. Over the last three years he rode 133 winners, only 20 more than he had scored in 2003 and again 2004. His first day riding back in India has set a marker that shows he still has the ability to bring the winners home, and he must have a good chance of revitalising a career that had stalled in England.