Pat Keane.


‘I have to be careful not to get too emotional. It’s bad for the image!’

Leopardstown yesterday is easy to describe. There’s never been an afternoon like it at the track, writes Pat Keane.

‘I have to be careful not to get too emotional. It’s bad for the image!’

On Saturday the legendary Tony McCoy stunned the racing world when announcing that he was going to hang up his boots at the end of the season. When he does retire, McCoy will be crowned champion jockey for an amazing 20th time.

Yesterday he offered the reason why, another display of power-packed riding, as he drove Carlingford Lough, fittingly owned by J P McManus, to success in the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Carlingford Lough, a first win in the race for the champ and for his venerable trainer, John Kiely, arrived on the back of just one outing this season, finishing fifth in the Lexus Chase here at Christmas.

Kiely, however, has long been a master of his profession and had his charge in the shape of his life to win his biggest race.

Carlingford Lough wasn’t overly clever three or even two out — at the second last the Cheltenham Gold Cup hero, Lord Windermere, landed in front. He was a couple of lengths to the good turning in, but then Foxrock roared into contention and took a fractional lead at the final fence.

The ferocious McCoy, though, was soon in hot pursuit and, in a rousing battle to the line, Carlingford Lough was always holding the call to score by three parts of a length.

McCoy, understandably, milked it for all it was worth. He waved to the crowd and punched the air, as he returned to the winner’s enclosure. And then he enjoyed a last wave to his massive audience, who were some eight-deep around the parade ring.

In many ways, a sad wave, a final farewell to punters at the Dublin track.

Said McCoy: “You can’t fight fate, it was obviously meant to be. Fair play to John, he always produces this horse right.

“It’s great for JP, Noreen and their family and for my family, who are here. I have to be careful not to get too emotional, it’s bad for the image.

“At the end of last season, after I won on Jezki at Punchestown, I said to JP and his son, John, there was a possibility this would be my last year.

“I started the season and gave it all I had. I rode my fastest 50, my fastest 100 and genuinely believed I was going to ride 300 winners.

“Then I fell at Worcester one day and dislocated my shoulder, punctured my lung and broke a few ribs. I thought I was fine, but managed another fall and broke the collar bone I had dislocated.

“For three weeks, I probably struggled mentally. I thought something I was going to achieve had been taken away. My wife, Chanelle, had no idea what was happening (that he was going to retire). The only people who had an idea were Dave (Roberts, agent) and JP. I can enjoy the last few months riding now, which is what I am going to do.”

Said Kiely: “It is a privilege to have AP, he did exactly what he was told. We will now take it day by day.’

When asked if the Gold Cup would be next, Kiely responded: “We’ll see what Frank (McManus’ racing manager) says and how the horse is. Patience has been the key, he just keeps improving.”

Foxrock, the youngest horse in the contest at seven, ran the race of his life. He jumped and travelled, but, most importantly, found lots for Adrian Heskin pressure.

In the end, he was simply worried out of it by a more street-wise opponent, but Ted Walsh’s charge has a real future. In any case, the majority of the attendance of 11, 259, probably came with one wish and it was that McCoy would ride a winner.

Well, it came prior to Carlingford Lough in what has to be regarded as a lesser race, on a star-studded programme, the Paddy Power Number 1 For Live Streaming Handicap Hurdle on the Eddie Harty-trained Sort It Out.

The type of contest it was, however, was largely irrelevant and punters treated their hero to sustained applause.

McCoy will leave at the very top of his profession and the hope is that he will emerge relatively unscathed over the next few months.

On Sort It Out, he did what he does best, driving him to the front heading to the last to easily beat Fort Smith.

Queue a superb reception as he came back, with the knowledgeable Leopardstown punters availing of the opportunity to pay homage to a man who would have lined many of their pockets, over numerous campaigns.

Any hopes, however, at this stage, that the champ might expand on his comments on Saturday were soon dashed.

Tracy Piggott, for RTE, did grab a quick work with him and McCoy was moved to utter the immortal words: “I won’t be getting much attention for much more.”

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