Classy McCoy Lights Up Leopardstown – Weekend Review

Emotions were running very high at Leopardstown on Sunday when the legend that is Tony McCoy – who announced he will be retiring before the end of the season – showed racing fans what they will be soon missing when getting Carlingford Lough home to win the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Tony McCoy

The 19-time champion jockey was seen at his very best in dragging Carlingford Lough over the line, a victory that in the process saw his mount’s odds for the Cheltenham Gold Cup tumble into 10/1.

There were further festival clues on the same card when Apache Stronghold took the Grade 1 Novice Chase for Noel Meade, which saw his odds slashed into 8/1 for the JLT Novices’ Chase.

Willie Mullins
But, there is no keeping Willie Mullins out of the headlines at present, and he again hit the bullseye courtesy of Nichols Canyon winning the Grade 1 Deloitte Hurdle, so often a race which has proven a big pointer for Cheltenham. The decision as to which race Nichols Canyon will take part in remains unclear, although the Neptune looks favoured, where he looks solid as the new 7/1 jolly.

Mullins’ Petite Parisienne strengthened the handler’s Cheltenham portfolio even further when scooping the Grade 1 Juvenile Hurdle, taking care of stablemate, Kalkir, in the process. Petite Parisienne displayed a good attitude here, and her odds of 10/1 for the Triumph may only get shorter between now and March 13.

While it was Grade 1 action in Ireland on Sunday, there were plenty of Grade 2’s in Britain on Saturday where Mr Mole entered the reckoning for the Champion Chase next month. His victory in the Game Spirit Chase at Newbury under Tony McCoy was a sight punters will be hoping are repeated for the Ulsterman’s last-ever festival next month, and with Sire De Grugy’s odds drifting to 6/1 having unseated here, Mr Mole looks an interesting each-way contender at 8/1 based on Saturday’s evidence.

On the same card, Coneygree won the Denman Chase – a race both Denman and Kauto Star both won prior to Cheltenham Gold Cup success – and while his festival target is not confirmed, there have takers of 10/1 about him taking the Gold Cup.

Elsewhere, Paul Nicholls won the Kingmaker Novices’ Chase with Vibrato Valtat, who is now 7/1 from double-figures for the Arkle, and it’s interesting to note Nicholls took the same route with Flagship Uberalles, who won at Warwick before Cheltenham in 1999.

Sports Personality of the Year
But, we close this week’s review with the man who started it: Tony McCoy.

Punters will be alive to the fact that they only have a few months left of seeing the great man in action, and as he showed on Sunday, he is keen to extract every big race victory out of what time he has left. Long-term investors may also have one eye on the 2015 BBC Sports Personality of the Year, as he is now the 11/4 favourite to win the trophy he picked up back in 2012.

While there are plenty of sporting events to take place during the next 10 months, it would be typical of McCoy to battle on tenaciously to hold off the likes of Rory McIlroy (8/1), Andy Murray (8/1) and Lewis Hamilton (9/1).