Tony McCoy shows his class to get Gilgamboa home first at Fairyhouse
Jockey enjoys a double as Easter Festival punters witness pulsating Ryanair Gold Cup
Marchese Marconi unseats rider Joseph O’Brien in the Gleesons Butchers Novice Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Pat Healy/PA
Gilgamboa ridden by Tony McCoy gets his nose in front over the last on the way to winning the Ryanair Gold Cup at Fairyhouse. Photograph: Pat Healy/PA
Tony McCoy treated Fairyhouse racegoers to another masterclass as the soon-to-retire champion jockey produced Gilgamboa to claim victory in a pulsating Ryanair Gold Cup.
The legendary rider will call it a day at some stage within the next few weeks and after ruling out riding at the Punchestown Festival, his appearance at Fairyhouse over the Easter weekend looks set to be his last as a jockey on Irish soil.
And he showed all in attendance just what they will be missing in his own inimitable way.
Gilgamboa was a 7-1 shot for the Grade One feature and success for Enda Bolger’s stable star looked unlikely as the field straightened up for home.
Having led her rivals for much of the way, 5-4 favourite Gitane Du Berlais was still hard on the bridle and when Smashing ranged alongside at the third-last, that pair looked set to fight it out.
However, the complexion of the race changed dramatically as a huge leap at the last brought Gilgamboa right on terms.
Bolger’s charge galloped all the way to the line to hold off The Tullow Tank, who came from the clouds to be beaten just half a length in second. Smashing was just ahead of Gitane Du Berlais in third.
McCoy said: “Fair play to Enda. I’m delighted to ride a big winner for him before I retire.
“He might be a horse for the Lexus at Christmas if he has his conditions. He’ll be a nice ride for somebody, but it won’t be me.”
Bolger said: “Tony has ridden a few for me but that’s the first winner we’ve had together. It’s great to win a race like this and to have that man on top.
“I don’t know whether he’ll go to Punchestown for the three-mile novice or not.”
McCoy was similarly brilliant earlier in the afternoon when Sir Scorpion justified 6-4 favouritism in the Gleesons Butchers Novice Handicap Hurdle.
Dual Irish champion Flat jockey Joseph O’Brien was in position to secure a first winner over jumps aboard Marchese Marconi until a final-flight error saw the rider slither to the turf.
McCoy sensed his opportunity and threw everything at the Tom Mullins-trained Sir Scorpion to get him home by a length and a quarter.
Harry Fry enjoyed his first taste of Grade One glory as a trainer after Bitofapuzzle turned in an impressive display in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.
The seven-year-old was the 3-1 favourite on the strength of her third-placed finish in the OLBG Mares’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival and galloped clear from the home turn, beating Petite Parisienne by four and a quarter lengths.
Fry said: “She’ll have a proper break now, she’s earned it and more. She’s made for fences and will go chasing in the autumn.”
Cheltenham Festival runner-up Shaneshill emphatically went one better in the Coolmore NH Sires Leading Light & Ocovango Novice Hurdle.
The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was the 4-9 favourite, having chased home stable companion Douvan in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, and scooted 13 lengths clear in the hands of Ruby Walsh.
Mullins said: “He’ll go to Punchestown and, on that run, it looks like he’ll stay at that trip. He’ll go chasing next year.”
Tony Martin and Paul Townend got the afternoon off to a flying start as Voices Of Spring (12-1) cruised clear in the Choice Hotel Group Maiden Hurdle, while Ballyadam Approach was an 11-2 winner of the Boylesports Novice Handicap Chase.
The concluding Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper went to Willie and Patrick Mullins as Castello Sforza (9-2) made a winning debut in the colours of Pearl Bloodstock.
Mullins said: “I’ve no intention of going to Punchestown with him. Maybe he could go for the bumper at the Curragh, but we’ll probably put him away.
“This man (Sheikh Fahad) has got into the game to go jumping and the aim is Cheltenham next year.
“Whether that’s for the Bumper, or over hurdles we’ll see.”