Tony McCoy needed Push for Grand National glory
In all the celebration over Tony McCoy's Grand National victory, anyone might be forgiven for thinking that the riding legend jumped the 30 fearsome Aintree obstacles all by himself.
But yesterday, the other half of the centaur partnership stepped forward to remind folk of his part in the adventure last April. Don't Push It was at home to visitors at Jackdaws Castle stables. And beware, his name is his watchword.
In personality and attitude, the 11-year-old gelding is as cranky and awkward as his jockey is pleasant and straightforward.
In fact, it is a case of meet the focker. “Fockwit is a very good word to describe him,” grinned his trainer Jonjo O'Neill. “But all the good ones have a quirk — they're probably not any good if they haven't.”
Don't Push It — owned by JP McManus — is Garboesque in his habits. He hates other horses and hates people. His living quarters are not conventional — his domain is a large shed in a paddock, with only six Jacob sheep for company.
He hates going into a stable, hates being clipped, will snap and barge at those attending him. But, as is usual in these situations, those closest to him will not have it that there is any real malice there.
“He's not nasty,” insisted O'Neill. “He's just a big, strong, moody loner. But he is a headache.”
Yesterday, Don't Push It condescended to parade alongside his stablemates Synchronised and Can't Buy Time, the trio being the yard's provisional squad for this year's John Smith's National.
A size bigger than his two comrades, the tall, lengthy gelding stalked round the huge indoor arena with amateur rider Alan Berry, who has the daily management of him, in the saddle.
Don't Push It nearly always takes his exercise solo, ahead of the herd. The training strip at Jackdaws Castle is fearsomely steep and the views from the top yesterday morning glorious, the Cotswold landscape depicted below from a Wallander palette of subtle greens, browns and greys under a pale sky.
And as Berry steered his charge smoothly up the testing ascent, the horse's limbs powerfully grabbing the ground, it was clear that for all his tantrums, this is a serious athlete. “He is an a*** to handle and be around,” said Berry. “Really quite difficult. But we'd like to have 10 more a**** just like him.”
Don't Push It is recovering from a tweaked muscle in his back and should be ready for racecourse action again in a couple of weeks.
O'Neill would like him to have at least one more run, preferably over fences, before Aintree in April, in addition to the two hurdles outings he has already had this term.
“First time out he was mad fresh and too revved up,” said O'Neill. “Next time we were far happier with him. But we need to get more runs into him — he came back from his summer holiday in Limerick as fat as a broodmare.
“He's always had little things go wrong — he's had a kissing spine and various leg problems — and it's a matter of trying to get everything right with him and hope that coincides with a suitable race.
“And then, you've got to hope he's in the right mood. On the way to the National we thought we were doing fine, and then he downed tools at Cheltenham.
“We went to Aintree on a wing and a prayer, but he took to the place. AP (McCoy) said he loved it from fence one. Second time, though, who knows?”
Paul Nicholls revealed yesterday that blood tests on Kauto Star after his defeat in Saturday's King George VI Chase had revealed a low-grade infection.
“He'll have a course of antibiotics and a few easy days,” the champion trainer said.