Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

McCoy plays waiting game for National

CIRCUMSTANCES conspired malignly against Tony McCoy on Monday, when he finally rode that 3,000th winner more or less simultaneously with Luiz Felipe Scolari's rather more abrupt irruption upon the news agenda.

But another, less momentous, coincidence on the same day will ultimately reiterate just how precious McCoy has become, however occasionally, in stimulating the curiosity of the world beyond racing.

For the announcement that Denman would not, after all, contest the John Smith's Grand National extinguished any prospect of the layman, for the first time since the days of Red Rum, being drawn to the race by a horse.

Needless to say, the National remains the one race guaranteed to command his attention, but when the weights for the 162nd

running were unveiled in Mayfair yesterday it seemed inevitable that public focus, more than ever, would centre on McCoy - and his unrequited craving for the only great prize still to elude him.

Over the years, his fortunes in the race have attained an increasingly macabre quality. Matters were exacerbated last year when Butler's Cabin, tanking among the leaders, fell at Becher's second time - a mishap reminiscent of McCoy's horrible luck on Clan Royal two years previously, when carried out by a loose horse at exactly the same stage.

Butler's Cabin duly finds himself one of the favourites, having been set just 10st 5lb, though McCoy will doubtless wait to see how the horse fares at the Cheltenham Festival before making his choice among seven entries owned by his employer, JP McManus.

Butler's Cabin is trained, like Clan Royal, Jonjo O’Neill, a man who never cracked the National during his own prolific riding career and he reminded those present that Butler's Cabin had already suffered visceral misfortune in less extreme environments.

"The horse collapsed after he won the National Hunt Chase at Cheltenham, and collapsed again after the Irish National," O'Neill said. "He hasn't had a fantastic time in the game. But hopefully we can rekindle him. I was happy with his last run [over hurdles at Kempton on Boxing Day] but hadn't been happy with him before. He had seemed to lose interest."

And the reality is that the subsequent record of the three horses who did fight out the finish, once Butler's Cabin had departed, is hardly calculated to suggest that the National, for all the scrupulous attention to welfare nowadays, has become some kind of Sunday afternoon gig-ride. Comply Or Die, last year's winner, and Snowy Morning, who came third, have both been running lifelessly since. King Johns Castle, the runner-up, has not run at all, but resurfaces at Leopardstown on Sunday.

David Pipe will also be looking for signs of renewal this weekend, when Comply Or Die goes to Haydock. "He has been disappointing so far," Pipe admitted. "But we were going through a quiet spell, and are having a few winners now. “

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