Cheltenham Festival: McCoy’s greatest rides
Wichita Lineman – Festival Trophy Handicap Chase 2009
Regarded by many to be the greatest ride ever by McCoy, and it’s still hard to believe even when watching replays how he managed to get the Jonjo O’Neill trained gelding up from an impossible position to land the spoils. Wichita Lineman was the O’Neill “banker” for the meeting and sent off the heavily-backed 5/1 favourite in the famous green and gold colours of owner JP McManus.
The eight-year-old raced in touch but then clouted the ninth and 10th and started to back peddle having seemingly lost interest. The writing looked on the wall and many jockeys would have considered calling it a day and pulling up. However McCoy is no normal jockey and despite further errors at the 15th and third last, which cost Wichita stacks of ground and vital momentum, he refused to give in.
His mount responded to his urgings and after jumping the last produced a strong run under a power packed McCoy to get up on the shadow of the post and prevail by a neck from Maljimar. It was ride of which Cheltenham is unlikely to see ever again, and the ultimate example of McCoy’s never-say-die attitude and will to win.
Edredon Bleu – Queen Mother Champion Chase 2000
Edredon Blue had not been at his best coming into the contest and had been easily brushed aside when finishing third to Flagship Uberallas in the Tingle Creek at Sandown. The Henrietta Knight trained eight-year-old seemed to have it all to do to reverse the placings, but under an attacking ride from McCoy did so in dramatic fashion.
The pair set off at a brisk pace at the head of affairs and kicked on four from home in an attempt to poach an unassailable lead. But three from home Flagship Uberallas and Direct Route began to close ominously and it looked only a matter of time before they picked up the leader. McCoy asked his mount to kick again rounding the home turn, and they still lead at the second last. But approaching the final fence the pair looked sitting ducks as Flagship Unberallas and Dirrect Route jumped upsides, with the latter seemingly going the best.
Norman Williamson then delivered Direct Route with what looked a perfectly timed effort to take up the running 100 yards out and go a neck up, but McCoy was not to be denied and Edredon Bleu rallied bravely under an all-out drive to put his head down right on the line and prevail by a short-head. It was the perfect ride, and one which provided McCoy with his first and only Champion Chase winner to-date.
Synchronised – Gold Cup 2012
Synchronised had won the Welsh National and put in an improved performance when winning the Lexus Chase on his final outing before lining-up for chasing’s blue riband event. He was considered an out-and-out stayer who would struggle to cope with the frenetic pace of the Gold Cup, and that looked to be the vase as the Jonjo O’Neill trained nine-year-old was quickly off the bridle and making mistakes. But McCoy knew that if he could somehow get Synchronised back into the contest, and close enough to land a blow rounding the home turn, that his stamina would come into play at the business end of affairs.
He kept niggling and giving Synchronised pats of encouragement down the neck, and his mount responded and gradually clawed his way into contention. The duo were still only in sixth place three from home, and Synchronised made a bad mistake which seemed to have put paid to his chances. But McCoy had his sights firmly set on gold and got Synchronised back on the coattails of the leaders approaching the last. A fine leap saw Synchronsied land running, and McCoy drove him clear to win going away by 2 1/4 lengths from The Giant Bolster. It was a fine example of horsemanship, and the win meant a huge amount to McCoy as it was the first Gold Cup winner for owner JP Mcmanus for whom he became the retained rider in 2004.
Albertas Run – Ryanair Chase 2011
McCoy is best known for getting horses up from an impossible position in a power packed finish, but his ride on Albertas Run showed that he is also a master tactician. The Jonjo O Neill trained 10-year-old was defending his crown in the 2m 5f contest and bidding for a third win at Cheltenham in four years. It was clear that Albertas Run could be vulnerable to younger rivals, and McCoy decided to adopt attacking tactics instead of holding him up as usual. The Trevor Hemmings owned gelding led or contested the lead from the moment the tapes went up, and after putting in some tremendous leaps took up the running three from home.
McCoy knew at this point that he would have to keep Albertas Run up to his work due to his tendency to idol when in front. A few slaps down the neck and kicks in the belly saw Albertas maintain a two length lead from the closing pack rounding the home turn, and after winging the final two fences the pair crossed the line a length clear of Kalahari King. McCoy had judged it to perfection and it was a sublime ride which showed the other side of the 19-times champion so rarely acknowledged.
Champleve – 1998 Arkle
The Martin Pipe trained five-year-old was sent off 13/2 and needed all the strength of McCoy to prevail in one of the closest finsihes ever seen at the Festival. Carrying the famous colours of the late David Johnson, Champleve raced up with the pace throughout before taking up the running at the seventh. As they came down the hill towards the third last McCoy was nudging and cajoling his mount to find extra and a mistake cost the pair vital ground. However, McCoy regathered Champleve and the pair kicked six lengths clear rounding the home turm.
Champleve then brushed through the second last and was far from fluent at the final fence as the chasing pack reduced the lead to four lengths. It was then a case of whether a legless Champleve would be able to fend off the strong late thrust of Irish raider Hill Society under Richard Dunwoody, but somehow McCoy managed to get the grey gelding to put his nose down right one the line and prevail by the width of a cigarette paper.
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