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Chatham claims Cheltenham Gold with runaway success

Chatham Street Lad ran out an impressive winner of the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, giving jockey Darragh O’Keeffe the biggest success of his career.

Trained by Mick Winters, the eight-year-old had won two of his last three, but looked a class apart as he bounded up the hill.

O’Keeffe always looked full of confidence as he moved into a challenging position coming down the hill, with Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody, Benatar, Master Tommytucker and Midnight Shadow all still in contention.

On landing in front at the second last, however, the Irish challenger sprinted clear and absolutely flew the final fence.

The 16-1 chance beat Midnight Shadow by 15 lengths, with the northern raider in turn well clear of Benatar and Good Boy Bobby in fourth.

Chatham Street Lad was introduced him into Betfair’s Ryanair Chase betting at 20-1.

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Winters said: “It was outstanding – it was a local jockey as well. He has come down to school on the horse lately and the horse has improved.

“The owners have always had horses in and they have a couple of pubs locally and things. In fairness he won well in Cork (last time out). This is spectacular.

“I’d be very humble about this. Racing is very special and the horses are treated so kind and people don’t realise it. It would be great to give something back as we are only passing through.

“I was confident we would run a blinder. Once he got over the last fence, I was hopeful after that. He is not Flat-bred he was bred for National Hunt, that’s why he was bought and he will keep developing.

“I don’t know where we might go next, but hopefully we might be back here (for the Festival) or at Aintree. He fiddled a couple of jumps and missed a few fences here and there, but I asked the jockey and he said he got in tight.”

Winters chose to celebrate his first Cheltenham winner in an unusual way, by rolling in the paddock.

He explained: “I said if he won, I would do like the pig and roll in the muck as that is what the pig does, so I had to back it up.

“We got here for the Foxhunters years ago and we finished mid-division. We all dream of the Foxhunters, but nowadays it has gone on a bit tough, so you dream of these races.”

O’Keeffe was also claiming his first victory at Cheltenham and added: “It was awesome.

“The one thing I thought might let him down was his jumping a bit, and at times it kind of did today. He was just a bit green.

“He travelled like a dream, he did make a few mistakes but when I wanted him, he was awesome.

“When Micky Winters comes over to England, he’s got to be taken seriously because when he has the ammunition he’s well able to train them. I’m very grateful to him for giving me the opportunity.

“We thought he’d run well, but we didn’t think he’d do that. It’s brilliant.

“When I was a child, I remember watching Ruby Walsh, Tony McCoy, Barry Geraghty and everyone coming up the hill and I always hoped at some stage of my career I would get to ride a winner here. It’s unbelievable,” he told ITV Racing.

Ellison seeking Caspian Caviar Gold with Windsor Avenue

Brian Ellison is anticipating a big run from Windsor Avenue in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup after the eight-year-old’s encouraging return at Carlisle.

Windsor Avenue began his campaign by finishing a two-and-a-half-length runner-up to the highly-progressive Imperial Aura in the Colin Parker Memorial Intermediate Chase at the start of last month.

He has been allotted an initial weight of 11st 3lb, with Harry Whittington’s Cheltenham Festival winner Simply The Betts and Paul Nicholls’ Master Tommytucker topping the list on 11st 12lb for next week’s big Cheltenham handicap.

Ellison reports Windsor Avenue has benefited from wind surgery, after an early end to his promising novice-chase campaign in January.

The Malton trainer said: “At the moment, Windsor Avenue definitely runs in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup.

“He won his first two chases nicely last season, and then he had a problem with his wind.

“We eventually sorted that over the summer – he had a soft palate hobday – and we were very pleased with what saw at Carlisle for a first run back.”

Cheltenham Festival winner Imperial Aura has since taken his successful sequence to three, with a Grade Two triumph at Ascot, and is being touted as a major contender for next year’s Ryanair Chase.

Windsor Avenue received 4lb from his Carlisle conqueror, and Ellison added: “Overall, I thought the Colin Parker looked a good race – and the form seems to be working out that way, given what the winner did at Ascot.

“That run definitely brought our lad on a bit, and it will be interesting to see how gets on in a handicap. Touch wood, his jumping is great, and he won’t be ridden too far away anyway.

“I will be going there expecting a big run, because I think a lot of him – and always have done.”

Among his potential rivals over two and a half miles on December 12, Evan Williams’ shock Paddy Power Gold Cup winner Coole Cody (10st 12lb) may return in search of a famous double.

Kerry Lee’s mare Happy Diva (11st 4lb) was the 2019 Paddy Power winner, and still in contention when falling two out in defence of her crown last month.

Recent Newbury winners Clondaw Castle (11st 10lb) and Caribean Boy (11st 9lb) are also of obvious note – as are Ascot scorers First Flow (11st 9lb) and Espoir De Guye (11st 5lb).