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Thursday 17 August 2017

Fairytale win for Tony McCoy at Cheltenham in Ryanair Chase

Tony McCoy (left) celebrates winning the Ryanair Chase on Uxizandre alongside owner John P McManus (centre) Peadar McCoy (right) and Chanelle McCoy (back right), on St Patrick's Day during the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse
Tony McCoy (left) celebrates winning the Ryanair Chase on Uxizandre alongside owner John P McManus (centre) Peadar McCoy (right) and Chanelle McCoy (back right), on St Patrick's Day during the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse
Tony McCoy celebrates winning the Ryanair Chase on Uxizandre, on St Patrick's Day during the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

Tony McCoy ensured he would not leave his final Cheltenham Festival empty handed when Uxizandre led from pillar to post in the Ryanair Chase.

McCoy did not seem to fancy his chances much pre-race, but Alan King's seven-year-old put in some spectacular leaps on the way round.

He built up a sizeable advantage before McCoy gave him a breather coming down the hill and the challengers stacked up.

Last year's runner-up Hidden Cyclone, the favourite Don Cossack, Eduard and Johns Spirit had chances, but Nicky Henderson's mare Ma Filleule looked the biggest danger.

McCoy had saved plenty, though, and Uxizandre (16-1) kept up the gallop to win by five lengths.

Don Cossack was three and a quarter lengths behind Ma Filleule in third.

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Tony McCoy celebrates winning the Ryanair Chase on Uxizandre, on St Patrick's Day during the Cheltenham Festival at Cheltenham Racecourse

McCoy said: "I would love to say it's a relief, but I actually got such a thrill riding him. I was actually thinking I wouldn't mind riding the horse in next year's Champion Chase.

"He ran away with me for a mile and a half and I thought he would never keep it up, but I was quite happy coming down the hill, he kept looking at the television camera on his inside and I thought he had saved a bit for himself."

McCoy went on: "Fair play to Alan King, he had him spot on for today.

"It's great for JP and Noreen (McManus) as much as anything, they're the people I work for. They have been so good to me, so I'm delighted for JP and Noreen and all the family.

"It's nice. Cheltenham is about winning isn't?

"The thrill this horse gave me, I'll miss riding horses like this, the ones that run away with you and jump like stags. It has to happen at some point. It's a bit sad, but we will worry about it this time next year."

He added: "It's going to affect me more next year than this year, because I am still riding. This time next year I am going to miss it - I am missing it already and I haven't stopped yet.

"He stuck at it well and it's days like this I am going to miss."

McCoy's wife Chanelle said: "This is going to mean the world to him. When he got up and was heading into day three he wanted one more time to ride a winner at Cheltenham, to soak up the atmosphere and not finish his career without one more winner.

"He wanted that feeling one more time.

"He's not the most animated at the best of times, but this will absolutely mean the world to him."

McCoy's family were waiting in the winner's enclosure and while simultaneously thrilled and emotional after the rider's win, his father, Peadar said: "I hope he gets another one!"

JP McManus, to whom McCoy has enjoyed such a fantastic association as retained jockey, said: "I admire all the jockeys, but AP is some man. Christy Roche rang me some years ago and said 'he should be handicapped, not the horses' and I've always remembered that.

"We've never signed a contract or anything. I respect him and love everything he does."

When asked how he would replace McCoy, he said: "We've had him cloned."

King said: "He's always been a very good horse but we just lost him a little bit in mid-winter on the heavy ground.

"We hoped that back up to two and a half miles on better ground was the key and my goodness he can go some pace.

"It's huge for the whole team and I'm delighted to part of the whole AP thing as well. The horses have been running well all week, but there's nothing like a winner here.

"It's the only way to ride him, to let him bowl along and we wanted to see if he was a Queen Mother horse earlier in the season.

"To be fair, AP said at halfway he was wishing he'd run in the Queen Mother as he didn't think he'd last home but it was only last year he was narrowly beaten here in the JLT and then won a Grade One at Aintree.

"Spring ground helps and some of his jumps today were breathtaking.

"We'll not see AP's like again, the winners, the dedication - I'm just delighted to have played a small part in it."

Of Ma Filleule, Anthony Bromley, representing owners Simon Munir and Isaac Souede, said: "She ran a brilliant race and I'm delighted for the connections of the winner as he's an ex-Million In Mind horse and I think the visor has probably helped him.

"Our mare ran great race and assuming she's OK, we'll aim towards the Bowl back over three miles at Aintree."

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