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 in north Cork, 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 into the Ryanair Chase betting at 20-1.
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’s 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.