Tony McCoy's attempts to deflect attention to John Kiely after Carlingford Lough's memorable Hennessy Gold Cup success were always doomed to failure in the circumstances and no one was probably happier about it than Kiely.
The Co Waterford trainer is renowned as one of the shrewdest but also most low-key trainers in Ireland and turning Carlingford Lough, who took nine goes at winning over fences before finally breaking his duck off just 10.7 in a Galway Plate, into a genuine Cheltenham Gold Cup contender next month looks like the 77-year-old's career masterpiece.
A dual-Grade 1 wining novice last season, Carlingford Lough stepped up from his Lexus Chase return at Christmas to overhaul Foxrock and earn quotes of as low as 8-1 for “blue-riband” glory next month.
“I have the easy job. I just turn up and steer them. But fair play to John, he has this horse 100 per cent every time,” said McCoy. “Friday [at Cheltenham] is the most important day of the whole year. He didn’t get into a rhythm at Cheltenham last year but he felt great today so in a very open Gold Cup he must have a live chance.”
Kiely has yet to taste Cheltenham festival success but the Gold Cup challenge is unlikely to faze the veteran trainer who characteristically deflected any stray focus on to others in the aftermath of his most significant victory.
“My thanks go to everyone, especially John Thomas [McNamara] who broke him, started him and gave him a proper attitude as to how to race,” Kiely said.
“It was a great finish and it was special to have AP – he gave him a peach of a ride. He’s a hell of a fellah – we’d have him again!”
Foxrock ran a huge race stepping up from handicap company and his trainer Ted Walsh playfully hugged McCoy and said: "It's a pity he didn't retire yesterday!"
Lord Windermere won last season's Gold Cup on the back of a much less encouraging Hennessy effort that his third this time and trainer Jim Culloty reported: "I'm delighted. His jumping got him there."
Boston Bob finished best of the Willie Mullins pair in fourth with the favourite On His Own fading to sixth after trying to cut out all the running. "I imagine they'll go to Cheltenham unless we find any problems. They were a little disappointing," Mullins said. McCoy had earlier won the handicap hurdle on Sort It Out for trainer Eddie Harty.