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Champion jockey Tony McCoy sets sights on big showdowns at Newcastle and Newbury

By Frank Brownlow

Tony McCoy should find out today when he can make his big return - with two huge races on Saturday week sure to be dominating his thoughts. The StanJames.com Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury could both offer opportunities for the prolific Ulsterman, currently recuperating from injury.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill has Goodwood Mirage in the Fighting Fifth and Merry King in the Gold Cup, with McCoy a regular on the former and occasional rider of the latter.

The 40-year-old's bid to become the first ever jockey to ride 300 winners in a season had looked so promising until he sustained rib and shoulder injuries in a fall at Worcester last month.

He racked up his fastest ever 150 winners in the current campaign but is currently marooned on 152 with the season ending in April - when he will be crowned champion jockey for an incredible 20th successive time.

"I'm getting better. I'm going back to see my doctor. I had a week away in the sun last week. Hopefully that will have helped me," said McCoy.

"I just want to get myself 100 per cent. We've got a lot of good horses to come back and ride," added McCoy, who will be keen to do all he can to aid O'Neill's quest for the trainers title.

Champion Paul Nicholls and last year's winner Nicky Henderson remain the favourites.

Noel Meade still hopes to get Monksland back on the track by Christmas at the latest after a near two-year lay-off.

The seven-year-old has been sidelined since winning the Christmas Hurdle at Leopardstown in December 2012 and the big Festival meeting there could be his starting point.

Meade wanted to have the three-time Grade Two winner ready to make his comeback in the Bar One Racing Hatton's Grace Hurdle at Fairyhouse at the end of November but faces a race against time following a setback.

"Monksland might not be ready for the Hatton's Grace," said the Navan trainer. "If not we'll wait for Leopardstown at Christmas."

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