Why Tony is the Real McCoy
When you ride over 4,000 winners and break records time and time again, it would be very unfair to expect Tony McCoy to be able to pinpoint one particular race that is a highlight.
Don't Push It's Grand National success and his three Champion Hurdle wins on Make A Stand, Brave Inca and Binocular all warranted particular mention, as did the two Gold Cups on Mr Mulligan and Synchronised.
In last year's winner you would imagine he has a real live chance of winning the Champion Hurdle again on Jezki and following yesterday's emotional victory on Carlingford Lough in the Hennessy Gold Cup, Tony McCoy now has a major contender to look forward to in what will be his final Gold Cup and his last big ride at the Cheltenham Festival.
Away from the media glare and general public attention that surrounded McCoy following his decision to retire, there was the important matter of one of Ireland's most prestigious races to fight for and for the first time in their illustrious careers, victory in the race went to John Kiely and McCoy and the ever progressive Carlingford Lough who has gone from being a 124 rated handicap chaser to, Galway Plate winner, to Grade One winning novice, to Hennessy winner and 10/1 shot for Cheltenham glory.
Looking ahead to the Gold Cup the jockey said: "He didn't really perform great there last year, but he just didn't get into a rhythm. He feels in great shape and look, it's a very open Gold Cup and he's definitely going to go there with a chance, hopefully.
"All credit goes to John Kiely who has done a fantastic job with this horse and has to look after him and I just get the easy job of steering him around."
From a racing point of view, it was a weekend that ruffled a few betting markets of Cheltenham Festival races as Newbury saw horses emerge as live players and some go the other way, while the same could be said about Leopardstown yesterday.
Trainer Willie Mullins yet again brought a formidable team to Leopardstown for each of the four Grade One races but the champion trainer settled for two of the big races as impressive Gigginstown owned filly Petite Parisienne led home her stable companion Kalkir in the Gala Retail Spring Juvenile Hurdle with both now expected to join Dicosimo as Mullins plans a three-pronged attack on the Triumph Hurdle at Cheltenham.
Options are well and truly open for Nichols Canyon who bounced back to winning ways and won his second Grade One of the season when taking the Deloitte Novice Hurdle in fine style under Ruby Walsh.
The Neptune is favoured for the five-year-old although the Supreme Novices' Hurdle wasn't ruled out either by the winning trainer who went on to complete a treble on the card when Prince De Beauchene won the Hunters Chase, denying On The Fringe by three parts of a length.
Jockey Paul Carberry celebrates his 41st birthday the afternoon but yet again proved the point that age is only a number when again showing his class on Noel Meade's Apache Stronghold who overcame a bad mistake early in the race to dig deep and deny the warm favourite Valseur Lido to give Meade another leading Cheltenham hope to add to Road To Riches in the Gold Cup.
"Paul is a bit like China, he breaks easily when he hits the ground," Meade quipped, "but it's great to have him on your side."
Apache Stronghold goes for the JLT Novice Chase for which he is best priced 8/1 with Boylesports.