Tony McCoy seeks first leg of perfect farewell in Irish Grand National
Champion jockey rides Cantlow, which can transform lacklustre season with victory
Tony McCoy will make one of his final appearances in Ireland at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Tony McCoy will hope gambled-on favourite Cantlow can give him the first leg of a Grand National double at Fairyhouse today which would help bring to a close one of the most famous careers in racing history.
The legendary champion jockey has already stated he will bring forward retirement plans should Shutthefrontdoor win the Aintree Grand National on Saturday.
But McCoy’s immediate focus is on Irish racing’s traditional Easter Monday highlight, the €275,000 Boylesports Irish Grand National, and one of the final appearances in this country by the most successful National Hunt rider of all.
A total of 10 cross-channel trained horses have won the Irish National in its 145-year history and the run-in to today’s race has been dominated not just by McCoy but by a gamble on the Paul Webber-trained Cantlow, one of three runners in the30-strong field for owner JP McManus.
Eighth in the race last year, Cantlow is a stone lower in the ratings compared to 2014 on the back of a largely lacklustre season which could yet be transformed if some breathing issues have been sorted out.
If they are, then McCoy’s chances of adding to his 2007 Irish National win on the McManus-owned Butler’s Cabin will be increased enough to provoke hopes of a perfect farewell to racing here.
“The ground probably isn’t ideal. He’d like it nicer. But hopefully he’s got a chance,” said McCoy, who won on two of his three Fairyhouse mounts yesterday, including on Gilgamboa in the Grade One Ryanair Gold Cup.
Bringing off the Grand National double in the same year is rare but not unknown. Tommy Carberry managed it 40 years ago and Ruby Walsh completed the double in 2000 on Papillon and Commanche Court.
Heyday Today McCoy’s great friend and rival will attempt to secure a first Irish National for Willie Mullins on board Perfect Gentleman, while Los Amigos provides a link to the race’s heyday through
trainer Jim Dreaper.
He won the Irish National four times in five years between 1974 and 1978, while his father Tom Dreaper famously won it on 10 occasions.
Los Amigos has been well supported in the betting and Dreaper said: “I don’t think better ground would be an issue but I’d say he’s more effective on soft. We’revery hopeful that this Easter he can do it.”
McManus has three runners as he pursues a fourth win in the big race, while Mullins also pitches in Dogora, but it is Michael O’Leary’s Gigginstown Stud team which numerically dominates with six hopes.
They include Empire Of Dirt, whose length defeat of Champagne James at Naas in February could yet emerge as the most significant piece of form.
Empire Of Dirt beat his rival by just a length on that occasion but is bred to relish a marathon test of stamina and will have the assistance of the highly rated 18-year-old rider Luke Dempsey.
O’Leary won the Irish National with Hear The Echo in 2008 and Empire Of Dirt could give trainer Colm Murphy a welcome return to big-race success and be the grit in the fairytale farewell scenario for McCoy.