Tony McCoy faces final hurdle in quest for 4,000th win
Tony McCoy will head to Exeter today followed by an increasingly large media entourage after moving ever closer to the 4,000-winner landmark with a double at Kempton yesterday.
McCoy now stands on 3,998 and he will travel to the west-country course for three booked rides: Flemenson, which is likely to start as warm favourite to take him to the brink, Keen Eye, which will need to improve on his last effort if he is to make the history books, and Well Hello There, a faller last time.
Given that McCoy has seemed to ride at least a double every time he has gone to the races recently, it is perfectly feasible that he will get to 4,000 at the track where it all started for him 19 years ago.
On September 7, 1994, McCoy, standing in for an injured Mick Fitzgerald, kicked home Chickabiddy, his first winner in England. On his most recent visit to the Haldon track, McCoy opened a bar named after himself.
However, the jockey, and the bookmakers, believe tomorrow is a more realistic landmark day. Assessing his chances at Exeter, McCoy said: "I wouldn't say they are good chances. Flemenson is probably the best one."
Paddy Power rates him a 4/1 chance to reach 4,000 this afternoon, and 8/11 tomorrow.
The Co Antrim native's first winner yesterday was Captain Cutter (4/11 favourite), a classy galloper which would have won by half the track if he had not been both deliberate and clumsy (if that is possible) at his hurdles.
"He needs to brush up on his jumping and needs a bit of experience," said McCoy (pictured after his second win of the day).
"He has started off well. I'm not sure he is the easiest horse to ride, but hopefully he will be in time."
McCoy followed it with Foundation Man (11/10 favourite), which beat the Richard Johnson-ridden Upton Mead in a chase. Coming second to McCoy has been the story of Johnson's life.
The 18-times champion jockey will, however, sit out the day's big race, the Haldon Gold Cup, which Cue Card is bidding to win for the second year in succession.
The progressive William's Wishes, who gets 19lb, might represent better value in a race which has a reputation for surprises.
"We stopped him last spring because of a little knock which came right on its own," explained his trainer, Evan Williams. "But he's a bad worker at home and is a miserable little horse who gives nothing away.
"I couldn't tell you I fancy him or put you off him. All I can tell you is that he is eating well and looks well. Nothing ever surprises me with him, he does nothing at home and then finds extra gears on a racecourse."
Meanwhile, a switch back to hurdles and a return to Kempton failed to revive the flagging career of Grands Crus as David Pipe's grey trailed home a disappointing fifth behind God's Own (11/4) yesterday's the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle at Kempton.
Grands Crus looked destined for the top following a brilliant display in the Feltham Novices' Chase at the track in 2011, but little has gone right for David Pipe's grey since and he endured a largely disappointing campaign last time around.
Despite conceding lumps of weight all round, this two-mile-five-furlong contest appeared a good opportunity for him to get his career back on track, but his finishing effort left more questions than answers.
The 9/4 favourite travelled well for some time, but it was worrying how quickly he dropped away when push came to shove as the Tom George-trained God's Own galloped away to win by six lengths from Like Minded.
Afterwards, Pipe said he would take stock before deciding the next step for Grands Crus.
"He looked good for a long way, hopefully it was just fitness," said the trainer.
"Only time will tell. I don't think you can make plans after that."