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Legend Tony McCoy signs off at home of jump racing

By Frank Brownlow

It hardly seemed a fitting send-off for the greatest ever jockey, finishing seventh at the home of jump racing in his last ever ride there.

But Tony McCoy - who retires next Saturday when he will be crowned champion jockey for the 20th successive time - was gracious to a fault both before and after his sole ride on board Milan Bound, taking time to sign autographs and pose for pictures.

McCoy will be hoping greater rewards are in store during Ayr's two-day Scottish Grand National meeting, which starts today with the Ulster legend booked for three rides - Capard King, Tap Night and Run Ructions Run.

Tap Night goes in today's feature, the Hillhouse Quarry Handicap Chase, in which Larne trainer Stuart Crawford runs Glenquest.

The 40-year-old rides Benvolio for champion trainer Paul Nicholls in the £210,000 Scottish Grand National tomorrow, and Sea Lord in the £100,000 Scottish Champion Hurdle.

"I'm looking forward to getting to Ayr and meeting fans there for the last time," he said.

McCoy will bring his glittering career to an end on the final day of the National Hunt season at Sandown next Saturday and after failing to find the target after two rides at Prestbury Park on Wednesday, his mount aboard the Jonjo O'Neill-trained Milan Bound was his final opportunity to return to Cheltenham's hallowed winner's enclosure.

McCoy settled the 100-30 joint-favourite in midfield for much of the three-mile Barbury International Supporting IJF Handicap before making headway to race on the heels of the leaders coming down the hill.

He looked in with a chance of securing a fairytale result jumping the second flight from the finish, but his effort petered out in the straight and he passed the post a well-beaten seventh.

Victory went to Milan Bound's main market rival Aqalim, with John Ferguson's charge galloping nine lengths clear of Kingsmere in the hands of Aidan Coleman.

McCoy will retire having ridden 192 winners at Cheltenham including 31 at the Festival.

Dan and Harry Skelton completed a fantastic couple of days at Cheltenham by combining to land two of the three mares' Listed events.

Trainer Dan Skelton also enjoyed a Cheltenham double on Wednesday, while his brother and stable jockey Harry brought up his half-century for the season.

Stephanie Frances got the ball rolling for the Warwickshire team on day two as she readily obliged as the 9-4 favourite for the Thoroughbred Breeders Association Mares Novices Hurdle.

"It's embarrassing it's taken me as long as it has to learn everything I need to know about her," said the trainer.

"When I bought her two years ago she was one of my big hopes and I probably put too much pressure on her and everything that could go wrong went wrong.

"I just took my time a little bit more this year and when she's in form she's very good.

"She'll definitely go to Haydock for the Swinton Hurdle now."

The Skeltons truck gold once more in the EBF/TBA Mares Novices Chase Final, with 9-1 shot Pumped Up Kicks surviving a final-fence mistake to seal a comprehensive nine-length success.

Harry Skelton said: "She jumped brilliantly at Ascot last time in a decent race and that just brought her on nicely for today. This better ground helped her as well.

"I wasn't sure how strong a race it was, but I didn't expect her to win like that. She won well, despite me messing it up going to the last."

The Fergal O'Brien-trained The Govaness clinched a second course victory in the Supports Mares Jump Racing Handicap Hurdle.

The 3-1 favourite was in a battle with Broxbourne and Blue Buttons jumping the final flight, but saw them off up the hill under Paddy Brennan, who bagged a treble.

Brennan completed a double aboard Tom George's 7-2 favourite A Good Skin in the Endsleigh Nicholson Holman Novices Limited Handicap Chase.

A fine day's work was completed by Brennan when Tobouggaloo (16-1) took the concluding Spreadex Mares Standard Open NH Flat Race.

Belfast Telegraph


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