Horse racing without AP McCoy is like Manchester United without Sir Alex Ferguson. Whilst the latter departed Old Trafford holding the Premier League trophy aloft a couple of seasons ago, the former will be aiming to leave his very own ‘Theatre of Dreams’ next month in a blaze of glory, as the legendary Northern Irishman gears up for his final farewell to the Cheltenham Festival.
The term ‘legend’ is branded around sporting circles with infuriating frequency, but in McCoy the 19-times champion jockey has revolutionised the National Hunt weighing room and in a career spanning over two decades the 40-year-old has ridden over 4,000 winners, with 37 of those coming at the Cheltenham Festival.
With less than three weeks to go until the 2015 Prestbury Park extravaganza kicks off, McCoy could be forgiven for taking the last few months in the saddle easy, but as he showed last week when riding four winners in four different countries in four days, he will continue his unrivalled will-to-win until he finally hangs up his riding boots for good.
Comfortably on course for an unheralded 20th champion jockey title, McCoy will be desperate to sparkle at the imminent spring festivals and whilst Shutthefrontdoor could look to hand him a second Grand National win on April 11, all eyes are firmly fixed on what the “champ” will be partnering over the four days of the Cheltenham Festival.
A three-times winner of the Champion Hurdle, McCoy is likely to partner reigning Champion Hurdle hero Jezki, who is not only looking to reverse recent form with Hurricane Fly, but also down the new pretender Faugheen, who along with The New One make the opening day showpiece on March 10 a real scintillating spectacle.
McCoy will don the famous green and gold silks of JP McManus in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, as he looks to etch his name in that roll of honour for the second time in his career, as they team up with Mr Mole, who is an 8/1 shot with Paddy Power for the 2m Championship race on day two.
Landing success in the Irish Hennessy Gold Cup aboard Carlingford Lough was another Grade 1 success ticked off McCoy’s list, but he is yet to reign supreme in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, and with More Of That’s participation in the 3m staying event under real jeopardy then it could well be a title the Country Antrim-born rider will have to live without.
McCoy’s ride aboard Synchronised is often uttered as one of the finest rides seen around the undulations of GL50, as the Jonjo O’Neill-trained star was cajoled to Cheltenham Gold Cup victory, and it’s the aforementioned Carlingford Lough and dual Festival winner Holywell that McCoy will have to choose between when trying to make it a hat-trick of wins.
Away from the Championship races, McCoy is sure to have a plethora of top rides, as the aforesaid McManus will unleash a host of handicappers, whilst the likes of Taquin Du Seuil and Aurore D’estruval could add more depth to what should be a star-studded book of rides throughout the four days.
Having only landed the Cheltenham Top Jockey crown on two occasions in 1997 and 1998, McCoy often struggles to live with the firepower at the disposal of the likes of Ruby Walsh and Barry Geraghty, but Sky Bet have installed McCoy as an 11/1 shot to lift the title this season, and knowing the nature of the man, you’d be a brave man to take the jumping idol on.
Article by Steve Chambers, who is on Twitter at @SteveChambers86