McCoy emerges from Denman hiccup with reputation enhanced

LAST Saturday in front of the television was the place to be - and I’m not talking about watching that debacle in Paris!

No, Newbury housed the real action with Denman and Master Minded producing the type of performances which had even old cynics sitting up straight in the chair.

Dick Francis, who sadly left our world this week, couldn’t have scripted the Denman and Tony McCoy affair better.

You suspect, although one could easily be wrong, that Harry Findlay was the main instigator of McCoy getting the ride in the first place.

The week leading up to Newbury was full of opinions as to whether he was the right man for the job or not.

The well-respected Tom Segal of the Racing Post, when asked what he thought, could hardly have been more brutal.

He said McCoy wouldn’t have been his first, second, third, fourth or even fifth choice. Segal then went to on say that McCoy was no longer as good as he was at presenting a horse to a fence.

On reading it, I found myself nodding largely in agreement. I certainly wouldn’t have been quite so harsh and, maybe, he might have slotted in at number three!

What I feel is beyond dispute, however, is that the McCoy we see riding now - and the one who used to be Martin Pipe’s right arm - bear only a passing resemblance.

Of course his job was far easier when with Pipe. He was partnering horses who were flying fit, many of them top-class, and trained by a genius of a man who, through his methods, had clearly gained a major edge over most of his rivals.

These days, when you watch McCoy riding in Britain, he spends a lot of his races pushing and cajoling beasts who are, essentially, moderate to say the least.

That has to take its toll and, at least fleetingly from time to time, have him yearning for the good old days!

It is amazing the contrast in attitudes to him between Britain and Ireland. In Britain, most seem to think he is the greatest jockey of all time.

But those holding similar views in his home country, I’d venture to suggest, are in a massive minority.

I don’t think McCoy has ever been regarded in the same way here and am aware of a number of trainers who don’t exactly go dancing in the streets when they hear he is coming to ride for them.

All of that aside, you had to admire the manner in which he handled the aftermath of the Denman hiccup.

And that’s really all it was in the greater scheme of things. We’ve seen the word disaster used to describe what happened at Newbury.

No, Haiti was a disaster and you rarely, if ever, get anything within a million miles of that in our almost totally irrelevant world of racing.

Anyway, when Alice Plunkett of Channel 4 stuck a microphone under McCoy’s nose and asked about Denman you wondered if fireworks might be coming.

He had to be bitterly disappointed and knew that the parting of the ways between himself and Denman was only going to make the debate rage all over again.

But McCoy could not have handled himself any better. He was calm, forthcoming, honest and rose way above what might have been expected.

It was riveting television and he emerged with dignity completely intact and reputation utterly enhanced.

Whatever you think of McCoy the jockey now, he has been an amazing pilot over many years and remains an icon of the game.

I’m no longer a fan of the way he rides, but must admit will take enormous pleasure should he actually go and win the Gold Cup on Denman.

We had no sooner settled down after that than along came Master Minded and Ruby Walsh to blow us away.

Master Minded, considering he was returning from a rib injury - and not even those closest to him seemed sure of what he might do - was simply awesome, prior to making as bad a mistake as you could wish to see at the final fence.

But the best was yet to come, with the brave Plunkett now shoving the equipment in her hand in the direction of Walsh.

And then Walsh proceeded to tear strips off himself, muttering something on the lines that a 7lbs claimer wouldn’t have done, at the last, what he did.

The whole afternoon reminded us, as if that was necessary, just why for those of who love horseracing it really is the only game in town.

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