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Tony McCoy set to make big impact at Festival

By Frank Brownlow

Tony McCoy moved to within two of his double century of winners for the season yesterday – and also received a massive Cheltenham Festival boost.

McCoy left it until the last race at Carlisle to ride Bobs Lord Tara to his one victory of the day, and news that My Tent Or Yours should be fully fit for Tuesday's Champion Hurdle tilt was music to the Ulsterman's ears.

My Tent Or Yours offers McCoy his best chance of a 30th Festival winner – and the fact it would be in one of the meeting's most prestigious races is an added bonus.

Next week's Cheltenham Festival – which runs from Tuesday to Friday – is likely to be the penultimate one for McCoy who will be 40 in May.

He will secure an unprecedented 19th successive champion jockey title next month and will almost certainly attempt a 20th.

The only landmark that will remain should he accomplish that feat would be 5,000 career winners, which would be a further three or four seasons away.

"I don't know if this will be my last Festival but that's definitely not the plan," said McCoy.

"I'm not so stupid I don't realise I haven't got many Cheltenham Festivals left but I hope this isn't the final one.

"I'm aware I'm going to have to retire at some point and I want that to happen while I'm still successful and champion jockey."

McCoy has two potential Gold Cup rides in Triolo D'Alene and Teaforthree as he chases a third win in the big race, but his best Festival chances will come on board My Tent Or Yours, At Fishers Cross (World Hurdle) and Taquin Du Seuil (JLT Novices).

And McCoy feels Ulster-bred Bobs Worth – the defending champion – will be the one to beat in next Friday's Gold Cup, the Festival's top race.

"The way Bobs Worth won at Leopardstown was really impressive," he said.

"The only worry is it's very hard to win back-to-back Gold Cups, but he hasn't had a hard season. He'll be very difficult to beat."

My Tent Or Yours confirmed his fitness for the Champion Hurdle with a workout at Seven Barrows yesterday.

Handler Nicky Henderson said the two-times Grade One winner has now recovered from a wound in a sole of a foot which had led to concern over his participation in the big race on the opening day.

My Tent Or Yours, winner of the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Newcastle and the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton this winter, will again flex his muscles in a spin today, although the champion trainer has repeatedly stressed all of his significant work for Cheltenham was completed some time ago.

Henderson said: "He's 100% fine. In terms of how he is, he's where he was last week and the week before that."

My Tent Or Yours warmed up for the Champion Hurdle with a jumpers bumper victory at Kempton last month and is as big as 5-1 for Cheltenham glory.

Meanwhile, Mount Benbulben has suffered a setback that has ruled him out of the Festival.

Owner Barry Connell revealed the Gordon Elliott-trained nine-year-old had sustained a splint bone fracture which may keep him out for the rest of the season.

Connections had considered supplementing Mount Benbulben for the World Hurdle, although he held entries in the Ryanair Chase and the Gold Cup.

"He should definitely be back for next season," said Connell.

Belfast Telegraph


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