McCoy shows clean pair of heels to win Ryanair Chase
‘We’ll miss you AP’ flashes on big screen as champion jockey enters winner’s enclosure
Tony McCoy got the victory he desperately wanted at his last festival. It was the most satisfying of all his 31 victories at Cheltenham, according to his wife Chanelle. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
It was St Patrick’s Thursday at Cheltenham, but the day belonged to another Irish icon.
Tony McCoy got the victory he desperately wanted in his last festival. It was the most satisfying of all his 31 victories at Cheltenham, according to his wife Chanelle.
She said McCoy had left the couple’s home in a “melancholy” mood yesterday morning as he contemplated the possibility of not winning.
Hours later McCoy won the Ryanair Chase on the 16/1 shot Uxizandre. It didn’t get the punters in full voice. Much of the smart money was on Michael O’Leary’s fancied favourite, Don Cossack, but once McCoy crossed the line, the grandstands broke out in spontaneous applause which carried all the way into the winner’s enclosure.
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Chris Bridle from Chester waved a green-and-yellow scarf, McCoy’s colours, as he entered the winner’s enclosure. “He’s my sporting hero and has been for years. He’s hard, he’s committed and he’s good fun.”
McCoy’s success in the Ryanair Chase means he will not have to wait for validation in the race named after him this evening: the AP McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase which closes the festival. “He desperately wanted a winner at Cheltenham this week more than I’ve ever seen him before,” said Chanelle McCoy.
That was not because he had anything to prove, but because “he wanted to soak it up and feel that Cheltenham feeling one more time. He really wanted just one more winner at Cheltenham.”
McCoy’s five siblings and his father Peter were there yesterday and will be again today. Only his mother is staying at home. “We’re bursting with pride for him at the moment,” said sister Kelly. “He’s even been a little bit more chirpy going to the races. We never realised how much people appreciated him until now.”
Among those watching in the parade ring was the Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett. “It’s the sport I come to enjoy. National Hunt is what it is all about,” he said. “I could come here and not have a bet.”
There were splashes of green all over the racecourse giving colour to a grey and chilly spring day at Prestbury Park.
The large Irish contingent was already celebrating when Vautour, the favourite, trained by Willie Mullins and ridden by Ruby Walsh won the opening race by 15 lengths. One happy punter had put £30,000 on Vautour to win.
But the highlight of Ricci’s day was finding out that Annie Power was alright after her untimely fall at the last on Tuesday which cost punters millions.
“That was our biggest win knowing that Annie Power is alright,” he said. “She’s in remarkably good order. She shouldn’t be after that fall. She lives to fight another day.”
Mr Coen, who lives in New York, flies into Cheltenham every March and had better luck with Vautour in the first race.
Overall he was up. Even when he was down, he wouldn’t miss it for the world. “I love to see horse racing. The atmosphere is spectacular. My father is coming here for 30 years and I’m coming here for 10.”