McCoy never ceases to amaze

OCCASIONALLY, and less frequently as you get older, something happens in this game which grabs you by the throat, has you up out of your seat and just plain excited.

I suppose most at this stage believed Tony McCoy had just about exhausted his capacity to surprise and then he goes and produces one of greatest rides ever seen on an Irish racecourse.

At Fairyhouse on Sunday his performance aboard Justified in the Powers' Gold Cup had you, literally, gasping in admiration.

Through the winter Justified was a strong fancy for the Arkle Trophy at Cheltenham. As part of his preparation he went to Newbury in January and won comfortably enough.

Immediately after the race, however, I remember resolving to swerve him big-time come Cheltenham. The commentator that day praised Justified's jumping. I felt I was looking at a different race.

To my eyes Dusty Sheehy's gelding repeatedly jumped away to his right. Such behaviour at Cheltenham would ensure he had no chance.

Of course he didn't turn up at Cheltenham, after disappointing next time at Leopardstown when a poor third behind Missed That and Arteea.

In any case Newbury appeared to confirm, what some of us had suspected for a while, that Justified needed to travel right-handed to be fully effective.

Newbury is the only place he has actually won going left-handed. All of his seven other victories have been right-handed, four of them at Punchestown.

Can you imagine the shock then for McCoy, and all those connected with the horse, when he jumped dramatically to his left throughout the Powers' Gold Cup.

He lost lengths at most of the fences and, really, had no right to win. That he did win was down almost totally to the man doing the steering.

It was an extraordinary, awesome, incredible - use whatever word you like - display of grit, determination and no little skill from the saddle.

McCoy knew precisely what Justified was doing, that he was in an idiotic mood, diving away at every fence, but he never gave the horse a moment's peace.

He fired him at every obstacle and seemed to become more and more focused. In the end McCoy's iron will had the final say and Justified beat In Compliance by three lengths.

It was the type of almost mind-boggling performance that only a man at the very top of his profession can accomplish.

Anyway, it is hard to know what to make of Justified now, I mean does he need to go right or left? Ideally, of course, it shouldn't matter.

He clearly has a serious engine but McCoy, mighty man that he is, won't always be able to work miracles.

I thought In Compliance lost little in defeat.

He's a year younger than Justified and came into the contest with only two races over fences under his belt. He remains a huge talent.

************

THOROUGHLY enjoyed the Irish National on Monday, for obvious reasons! You would have to conclude that the first two, Point Barrow and Oulart, are a pair of real Aintree Grand National prospects for the future.

They are two young horses, eight and seven respectively, who are superb jumpers, blessed with an abundance of stamina.

The modern-day trend, when getting a horse ready for a National, is to run him over hurdles. I wouldn't pretend to understand why it works, but it does.

The first three on Monday, Point Barrow, Oulart and A New Story, all had their previous races over flights.

Point Barrow's trainer, Pat Hughes, had gone through agony for the previous five months plus and admitted to heading down to the ring to consider having a bet on his horse.

He was tempted to have €500 on, which would have netted a cool €10,000, enough for a half-decent party.

But he said he had decided some time before that he wouldn't back one of his own horses until such time as he managed a winner.

Every aspect of this game is about confidence and he wheeled away. I doubt the decision cost him a wink of sleep.

It was terrific to see the fences at Fairyhouse claiming only victims who, essentially, deserved to pay the price.

There is no greater sight in racing than to watch good jumpers flowing across well presented obstacles.

More in this section

Sport
Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up
IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox