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Grand National 2015: Ups and downs for Tony McCoy at Aintree

By Frank Brownlow

Published 10/04/2015

Hardest game: Tony McCoy and Jezki go on to win the Aintree Hurdle after Ruby Walsh and Arctic Fire fall at the last
Hardest game: Tony McCoy and Jezki go on to win the Aintree Hurdle after Ruby Walsh and Arctic Fire fall at the last

There was a sharp intake of breath from thousands of Shutthefrontdoor backers around the country when Tony McCoy had a crashing fall from Ned Buntline at Aintree on a day of mixed fortunes for the soon-to-retire champion jockey.

Bookmakers have estimated a £50million payout if the Ulster great wins on Shutthefrontdoor in what will be his last ever ride in the Grand National.

McCoy was on target on board Jezki - winner of the big WKD Hurdle at the 2013 Down Royal Festival with the Moneyglass rider in the saddle - in the Aintree Hurdle.

But the rough and tumble of this tough sport was highlighted little over an hour later when McCoy was sent crashing to the turf from Ned Buntline - his mount in his final ever Cheltenham Festival race, which was named in his honour - in the Red Rum Handicap Chase won by Surf And Turf, Armagh jockey Brian Hughes riding.

Hughes rides Ely Brown in tomorrow's £1million showpiece.

McCoy's great friend and rival Ruby Walsh also suffered a bad fall, going to ground when riding Arctic Fire in the Aintree Hurdle, opening the door for the Ulsterman to triumph on Jezki.

"It was a heavy fall. It was great that both Ruby and the horse were okay," said McCoy.

"We were racing down to the second last together and I always thought we'd stay well but that's not to say Arctic Fire wouldn't have.

"The two of us were racing between the second last and the last and this lad has an inclination to go left, so I wanted to make sure I got the inside on him.

"I thought it was going to be a tight race. Whether I'd have won or not I don't know, but 50 yards from the hurdle I thought I had him (Arctic Fire) beat.

"I think circumstances have conspired against him, he's been taking on very good horses.

"I'm going to miss horses like him - it's nice he and I have finished on a winning note."

He added: "Liverpool is a great place and it's great for the team."

Winning trainer Jessica Harrington added: "It's great to get him back in the winner's enclosure. They've been hard races all season and he's been on the go for a long time but he was very tough.

"You start off the season and think 'this is going to be easy'. He'd won the Champion Hurdle and Punchestown and you think 'we've just got to turn up and win'.

"But we kept running into Hurricane Fly and in Ireland there's nowhere to hide.

"I'm absolutely thrilled he's won here. It's great for the horse, it's great for JP (McManus, owner) and I'm absolutely delighted to give AP a winner here, as I think he's been slightly frustrated with the horse all year."

It was a second fall on the day for Walsh - he'd also come off Starchitect in the second race - who reported Arctic Fire to be "100 per cent" afterwards.

"It was a heavy fall but he's alright, thank God," he said.

"I won't be riding (Apache Jack) in the last. I have a dead leg but it will be alright with some ice on it," said Walsh, who rides Ballycasey in the National.

McCoy has said he will retire on the spot if he wins the Grand National for a second time tomorrow, following his triumph on Don't Push It in 2010, a victory that saw him become the only jockey to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

If the 40-year-old does not win the big race, he will continue until the end of the season at Sandown on April 25, when he will be crowned champion jockey for an unprecedented 20th successive time.

McCoy, who has 229 wins this season and 4,355 overall, has six rides at Aintree today, Carole's Destrier in the Mildmay Novices Chase for Ulster trainer Neil Mulholland one of the highlights.

Other high profile mounts include Don Cossack in the Melling Chase and Minella Rocco in the Sefton Novices Hurdle.

Belfast Telegraph

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