Paddy Grace

Trainer Jim Culloty with horse Lord Windermere during the homecoming parade at Mount Corbitt Stables, Churchtown, County Cork. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday March 16, 2014. Photo credit should read: Pat Healy/PA Wire
Trainer Jim Culloty with horse Lord Windermere during the homecoming parade at Mount Corbitt Stables, Churchtown, County Cork. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Sunday March 16, 2014. Photo credit should read: Pat Healy/PA Wire

Jim Culloty is looking forward to getting his Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere back on the course in the John Durkan Memorial Chase at Punchestown today.

The eight-year-old is among nine horses standing their ground at the confirmation stage and while the trip might be on the short side, Culloty is looking for a decent show.

“The horse is fit and well and while two and a half miles is a slightly inadequate trip, we are hoping for a good run to kick off his campaign this season,” said the Mallow handler.

Noel Meade reports Texas Jack to be on course for the Grade One as long as he comes through his final piece of work in good shape.

“He’s in good form. He will do a bit of work later this week and if that goes OK he will run,” said the County Meath trainer.

The eight-year-old was last seen finishing fourth to Last Instalment in Leopardstown’s Hennessy Gold Cup in February.

Willie Mullins looks like relying on Boston Bob after the Punchestown Gold Cup winner finished third to Road To Riches in the JNWine.com Champion Chase at Down Royal on his reappearance.

Mouse Morris’ First Lieutenant, runner up to Boston Bob at Punchestown, could renew rivalry. Morris also has Baily Green and Rathlin in the mix.

As well as First Lieutenant, owners Gigginstown House Stud have the Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack, winner at Punchestown and Down Royal on his two starts this term.

The Tom Mullins-trained Alderwood and Robbie Hennessy’s Rubi Light complete the nine acceptors.

Whip woe for Russell and Enright

Dual champion jockey Davy Russell and fellow rider Phillip Enright are set to miss some of the high-profile action over the festive period after both were suspended following a bizarre whip-related incident at Clonmel.

Russell was riding the Charles Byrnes-trained 8-13 favourite Leave At Dawn in the Powerstown Handicap Hurdle, while Enright was aboard 33-1 shot Backinyourbox.

Russell dropped his whip after his mount made a bad mistake at the first obstacle and television coverage showed him appearing to take Enright’s stick before the runners jumped the second flight.

Both horses finished well down the field, with Leave At Dawn a disappointing eighth and Backinyourbox further back in 12th position.

The stewards found Russell and Enright in breach of Rule 272, which is related to bringing racing into disrepute, and were handed five-day suspensions.

The riders will sit out the two racing days before Christmas, December 20 and 21, as well as the action from December 26-28.

Russell said: “I never set out to do this as it wasn’t premeditated.

“The suspension has come as a bit of a shock. I’ve nothing more to say and will have to digest it.”

Condon on comeback trail

Davy Condon is nearing a return to competitive action after riding out on Wednesday morning for the first time since suffering a heavy fall at Cork in August.

Condon was partnering the Gordon Elliott-trained Flaxen Flare at the Mallow track, a horse he guided to Cheltenham Festival glory in the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle in March the previous year, when he crashed out two flights from the finish.

The jockey suffered three fractured vertebrae in the fall and initially feared he may never ride again after suffering a rare condition called spinal concussion, which briefly left him unable to move from the neck down.

Thankfully he has made a full recovery and was delighted to be back in the saddle at Elliott’s yard on Wednesday.

Condon said: “I rode five lots and did a bit of schooling, so it was pretty much a full work day and that is what I wanted. There is no point going back and tip-toeing around. I enjoyed it.

“I’m hoping to be back for Christmas. I won’t be riding this weekend, but I might look at the following weekend. We’ll just see how we go.

“My back healed fairly quickly, thankfully, and all the scans came back clear, so it’s just a case of getting fully fit now.

“Every day riding out will help. You can’t beat riding out as you use totally different muscles when you’re riding to normal exercise.

“I can’t wait to get back.”

Condon’s potential mounts over the festive period include Elliott’s talented dual-purpose performer Bayan, who is being targeted at The Ladbroke at Ascot on December 20.

Walsh laments Djak inexperience

Ruby Walsh felt the lack of experience in an ultra-competitive contest such as the Hennessy Gold Cup contributed to Djakadam’s downfall in the Newbury feature last Saturday.

The five-year-old was sent off 5-1 favourite for what was only his fourth run over fences. Though he briefly flattered, he eventually finished eighth behind Many Clouds.

Djakadam won a four-runner Grade Two novice chase at Leopardstown in January, but Walsh believes the Willie Mullins-trained gelding has not yet earned his place at the top table.

“I was a little bit disappointed initially and then when I thought about it, I wasn’t that disappointed,” Walsh told Racing UK.

“I’d just say he wasn’t battle-hardened enough. It was his first run of the season, he hasn’t got many miles on the clock.

“He travelled well, he jumped well. I thought going to the cross fence I had a great chance. He just got tired going into the straight and then started to run on again and then he missed the second last, but the race was over at that stage.

“I’m sure he’ll improve a lot for it.

“When you’re at that level of a race, you probably do need miles on the clock. As a five-year-old, he just wasn’t battle hard enough for it.

“I’ve not discussed it with Willie yet. He’s off a mark of 142, it will be hard to step him into a Grade One.

“He needs to show he’s better than that to warrant a place in a Grade One. I imagine Willie will find a race for him somewhere along the way. He’ll be a lot better for the run.”