Cheltenham Festival: AP McCoy's top 10 moments
From his first win as a 17-year-old on Legal Steps for Jim Bolger to the 4,000-plus winners he has ridden in between.
AP McCoy has established himself as a giant in racing circles. And while his willingness to travel far and wide to pick up a winner far away from racing’s bright lights was legendary, he also produced some of his very best moments on the biggest stage of all, the Cheltenham Festival. Here, Donnchadh Boyle looks at some classic McCoy highlights at Prestbury Park
1. Mr Mulligan
GOLD CUP (1997)
“We took him to Newbury about 12 days before the Gold Cup and he worked appallingly, badly even for him,” trainer Noel Chance reflected after the race.
Mr Mulligan wasn’t a straight-forward sort and in the 1997 renewal of the Gold Cup, he was sent off 20/1 outsider in recognition of his erratic form and disrupted preparation that saw him fall on his previous run.
He was up against some top-class performers, including 1996 winner Imperial Call, Dorans Pride and Danoli and despite making a mistake four from home, McCoy kept his mount focused to take the blue riband Cheltenham event for the first time in his career.
GOLD CUP (2012)
A full 15 years after he first won the Gold Cup, McCoy was on Synchronised for JP McManus and Jonjo O’Neill and, in some ways, this win summed up McCoy’s racing career.
Synchronised needed to be coaxed through the first couple of miles to stay in touch with the leaders but he was there exactly when he needed to be.
But McCoy had managed him perfectly and had him at full tilt between the final two fences and as a winner of the Welsh National, he was sure to stay on up the hill.
“He’s all heart and will to win,” McCoy said afterwards. The pair were well matched.
CHAMPION HURDLE (1997)
Twelve months earlier, Binocular had gone off favourite in this race only to disappoint and finish in third place. The winter hadn’t been kind either and Nicky Henderson’s charge was hit by unexpected reverses in Newcastle’s Fighting Fifth and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton.
In the build-up to the race, Henderson ruled his charge out and he drifted out as far as 99/1 but a late recovery after he had worked well at home saw him go off at 9/1.
“I went as fast as I’ve ever gone schooling on a horse — I actually frightened myself — and for some reason he jumped like a proper Champion Hurdler should,” McCoy said afterwards.
He won the race by three-and-a-half lengths from Khyber Kim in an impressive showing. Among those trailing after Binocular was Go Native, the 3/1 favourite, chasing a £1m bonus for victory.
4. Wichita Lineman
WILLIAM HILL FESTIVAL TROPHY (2009)
Perhaps McCoy’s most famous moment at Cheltenham. Wichita Lineman went off as favourite but soon his jumping went wrong and that dropped him towards the rear.
McCoy got after his charge and seemed to have him back on the bridle until another jumping error halted his momentum.
As they turned down the hill, he looked beaten but McCoy kept working away and suddenly Wichita Lineman found another gear. On the run-in, McCoy brought his mount from second last to edge out Maljimar on the run-in by a neck.
McCoy wrote in his autobiography: “I have ridden plenty of winners that anybody could have ridden. There are plenty of rides that have been acclaimed as top-class rides that simply weren’t. Wichita Lineman was different. I don’t think everybody could have won on him. I thought to myself afterwards, and I don’t think I was being arrogant, you know, you did alright there.”
5. Edredon Bleu
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (2000)
Edredon Bleu went off second favourite behind Flagship Uberalles. Edredon Bleu made all from early and jumped well to maintain his lead.
But when he was headed by Direct Route on the run-in, it looked a done deal. However, McCoy squeezed every last drop out of his mount to take it.
6. Brave Inca
CHAMPION HURDLE (2006)
McCoy and Brave Inca clicked from the start. The first time the pair teamed up was in the Champion Hurdle at Punchestown and that came after a season of near misses for Colm Murphy’s charge.
A third place in the 2005 Champion Hurdle cross channel was followed by his first and only fall of his career in the Aintree Hurdle. By the time he went to Punchestown, McCoy was on board and the pair got off to a victorious start together.
In the winning groove by the time the 2006 Champion Hurdle came about, Brave Inca was sent off 7/4 favourite in a field of 18. He delivered on that price, seeing off Macs Joy, with Hardy Eustace, which was going for a third win in the race in a row, back in third.
7. Well Chief
ARKLE CHASE (2004)
A remarkable achievement for both horse and jockey considering that Well Chief went to the 2004 Festival with only one run over fences under his belt.
McCoy guided him to success in Taunton over the big obstacles a little more than a month before the Festival and he was sent directly into the Arkle. The pair took the step up with style, seeing off future Gold Cup champion Kicking King by a length to take the win.
8. Albertas Run
RYANAIR CHASE (2011)
Albertas Run had form at Cheltenham, winning the RSA Chase before turning to the Ryanair while he lost out in the 2009 Gold Cup.
Despite winning Ryanair 12 months earlier, Albertas Run was sent off at 6/1 behind 2/1 favourite Poquelin but when it came down to it, he was back in form at just the right time to see McCoy in the winner’s enclosure once more.
9. Make A Stand
CHAMPION HURDLE (1997)
A bolt from the blue. Make A Stand had been spending his time in handicap company before coming into the reckoning for the Champion Hurdle.
Running against a class of horse he hadn’t met before, McCoy sent Make A Stand out to make all.
Under McCoy’s urgings, the Martin Pipe-trained horse hardly took a backwards step and when he cleared the last with four lengths on his rivals, there was no catching the pair.
GRAND ANNUAL CHASE (1996)
more notable for being McCoy’s first winner at the Festival. For the following two years, he would be the Festival’s leading jockey and in the intervening period he’s won 29 more times in the Cotswolds.
Included among those winners were all of the feature races apart from the World Hurdle. McCoy was inducted into the Cheltenham Hall of Fame in 2012.
Belfast Telegraph Digital