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Tony McCoy: Hurricane Fly the best horse at Cheltenham Festival


Up and over: Tony McCoy in action at Sandown yesterday

Up and over: Tony McCoy in action at Sandown yesterday

Getty Images

Up and over: Tony McCoy in action at Sandown yesterday

Tony McCoy has highlighted Ulster-owned Hurricane Fly as the best horse in the Cheltenham Festival's opening day feature, the Champion Hurdle - even though the prolific Ulsterman is riding Jezki in the same race.

Hurricane Fly won the Champion Hurdle in 2011 and 2013, with Jezki triumphing last year - after McCoy and turned down Jessica Harrington's charge in favour of My Tent Or Yours who finished second.

McCoy had already won the WKD Hurdle at the 2013 Down Royal Festival on Jezki.

Hurricane Fly - owned by Rose Boyd of Crossgar and Belfast's George Creighton - could only finish fourth last year but has already beaten Jezki three times this season.

Faugheen is favourite for Tuesday's £400,000 showpiece. The seven-year-old, like Hurricane Fly, is a Willie Mullins inmate, meaning Ruby Walsh must choose between the two.

McCoy, who will retire next month after being crowned champion jockey for a 20th successive time, said: "If I was Ruby, I would hate to be deserting Hurricane Fly. It's not easy. I'd love to have the choice but then I'd hate it too - I can't pick the right one from my horses, let alone Ruby's!

"Hurricane Fly is a remarkable horse. Don't get me wrong, Faugheen is very good. I'd say he's similar to Istabraq and Hardy Eustace in that he's come back from winning over longer trips.

"He could be champion hurdler for a couple of years," added the 40-year-old from Moneyglass.

As for Jezki's chances, McCoy said: "A lot of things fell right for him when he won it last year.

"He's not out of it, and the hill might help, but you couldn't be going there confident."

McCoy is banking on Zip Top to provide him with a sixth success in the William Hill Imperial Cup at Sandown today.

It is 17 years since the perennial champion jockey clinched the prestigious handicap for the first time aboard the Martin Pipe-trained Blowing Wind and he has subsequently struck gold aboard Polar Red, Korelo, Gaspara and Qaspal, with all but the latter trained at Pond House.

In what will be his final appearance in the race before he calls it quits at the end of the season, McCoy teams up with trainer John Ferguson as Zip Top, a top-class juvenile on the Flat four years ago, steps up in class following victories at Fakenham and Southwell already this year.

McCoy said: "The Imperial Cup has been a race that's been lucky for me over the years.

"Zip Top is a horse that was very decent on the Flat and was second to Camelot in the Racing Post Trophy.

"He's taken well to jumping, winning at Fakenham, but he was a little disappointing in really testing ground at Newcastle and then won at Southwell just a few weeks ago."

McCoy rates David Pipe's favourite Bidourey as the main danger and also feels the expensive-to-follow West Wizard should not be dismissed

"Bidourey of the Pipe's, it's a race they've obviously done very well in, they've won it nine times over the years, so he's a very worthy favourite. Hopefully Zip Top can beat him," McCoy said.

"Of the others, I think West Wizard is one I'd keep on the right side of because he's been favourite a lot of the times he's ran and he's disappointed.

"There's obviously something there. He's got a good weight of 10st 8lb, so West Wizard might be one I'd keep an eye on at a price," he added.

Belfast Telegraph