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Can AP McCoy ride Carlingford Lough to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory?

Tony McCoy, 19-times Champion Jockey, bids to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Blue Riband event of Prestbury Park, for the third occasion aboard Carlingford Lough in what will be his final Festival before retiring.

Owned by JP McManus, Carlingford Lough (10/1) is a nine-year-old son of King’s Theatre, who has left the confines of handicap chasing company and firmly established himself as Grade 1 performer.

After failing to win a race in his first season over fences, he won the Topaz Novice Chase in 2013 before going on to claim the Champion Novice Chase at the Punchestown Festival.

This season Carlingford Lough has continued to progress; starting with a satisfactory, if unspectacular effort, in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, followed by a gutsy victory on his latest start in the Irish Hennessy.

Under a typically persuasive ride by McCoy, he got the better of his rivals (which included last season’s Gold Cup winner and runner-up) showing plenty of stamina and determination.

Undoubtedly, worthy of consideration for the Gold Cup, McCoy will be riding a horse who looks to have plenty of scope to progress and who should be suited by the demands and testing nature of this marquee race.

Nonetheless, negatives exist. First and foremost, Carlingford Lough’s only previous experience of the Cheltenham Festival came in the 2013 RSA Chase where his jumping let him down early on and he finished out of the places, over nine lengths behind the eventual winner.

Add in to the equation the quality of this year’s opposition, and the task becomes ever more difficult.

The likes of the 174 rated Silviniaco Conti (3/1 favourite), who won both this season’s Betfair Chase and the King George at Kempton in emphatic fashion; and Road To Riches (also 10/1), another progressive Irish chaser who comfortably accounted for Carlingford Lough in the Lexus, will make this a stern test.

Although winning a trio of Gold Cup crowns would be a fitting and sentimental way to conclude McCoy’s Cheltenham legacy, his task is by no means an easy one.

For all Carlingford Lough is a progressive and unexposed chaser, his tendency to clout fences, combined with the quality of his opposition, will demand the very best ride from McCoy!