Perfect timing from Synchronised

You’d imagine JP McManus has spent much of his life hoping to win the Cheltenham Gold Cup and yesterday at Cheltenham it all came right, when Tony McCoy brought the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Synchronised with an irresistible challenge to beat outsider The Giant Bolster and last year’s winner, Long Run.

In a dramatic race, the legendary Kauto Star was pulled up with less than a circuit covered, before the 10th fence, to tumultuous applause from the packed stands.

McManus first came to prominence back in the late 70s with the great white hope of Irish chasing, Jack Of Trumps. That horse was regarded as a possible Gold Cup winner, but it never quite came to pass.

Indeed, truth to tell, McManus has never, ever since looked like winning the greatest prize in National Hunt racing, until McCoy produced Synchronised with a surging burst over the final half mile.

The Giant Bolster, what a race he ran for a 50-1 shot, made the best of his way home off the final turn, with Long Run trying desperately to close him down.

Before they arrived at the final bend, McCoy was rowing away on Synchronised, struggling for much of the race, who had an amount of ground to make up back in fifth place.

Winning Gold Cups, however, requires courage and Synchronised clearly has that in spades. He responded to McCoy’s vigorous driving and, soon, was bang in contention. He flew across the last and then roared up the hill to win going away in the end.

The 16-times champion jockey hadn’t been having the best of weeks and made no attempt to hide his emotions.

McCoy said: “It’s great for Jonjo and JP and Noreen McManus. The McManuses have been so good to me since I started riding for them. I haven’t really delivered, not enough.

“Jamie Moore got a seven-day ban and said he was going to Las Vegas. I told him that if I won the Gold Cup that I would pay for it, so that’s going to be expensive!

“Synchronised was off the bridle all of the way and what I didn’t want to do was fire him at fences and make it hard for him.

“I missed the third last, but thought I was close enough at that point. He’s an amazing horse and it is an amazing training performance.

“I am delighted for JP and Noreen, who have put so much into racing and have been so good to me.

“I have got a Gold Cup winner and a National winner from Jonjo, I love the man. Jonjo deserves Gold Cup horses, he is bang there come Cheltenham.’’

For O’Neill, it was a first win in the Gold Cup as a trainer and his 21st festival success. He won the race twice as a jockey, aboard Alverton in 1979 and Dawn Run in 1986.

O’Neill has no doubt that winning as a trainer is far better.

He said: “If you cock up as a jockey, you let yourself down, if you cock up as a trainer, you let the team down.

“There is far more pleasure (as a trainer) when you get it right. Getting this horse to this day has been such a massive team effort, with a magic result.

“He wasn’t quite right when coming back from Leopardstown (when he won the Lexus), he wasn’t well at all.

“He’s not big and robust and needs minding and time between races. Everyone at Jackdaws Castle gave everything to get him right.

“It was really only the last few days that he came to himself. He was like a flower who finally bloomed.

“This is a horse who really needs knowing, but AP got him into a great rhythm and once he was still in touch after a circuit, we knew we had a chance.

“He’s got a heart bigger than himself and never gives up, just like his jockey. The two of them will keep finding more and more, they’re made for each other.’’

For McCoy it was a second win in the Gold Cup, to go with Mr Mulligan in 1997 and this was his 26th win at the festival.

The Giant Bolster ran the race of his life to claim second, prompting trainer, David Bridgwater, to say: “That’s effin’ marvellous, I thought he was a Gold Cup horse from day one.

“I knew he was a machine and have been gobsmacked by his price all year. I get a bit pumped up and fed up when so-called experts criticise the horse.’’

Long Run jumped well, mostly, and travelled strongly, but could not raise his tempo enough in the straight. Jockey Sam Waley-Cohen said: “I’m pleased, no excuses. I thought he might pick up turning in but didn’t.’’

Sadly, there has to be every possibility now that connections will call it a day with Kauto Star, who has nothing to prove.

“It didn’t last long, but the horse is alright.’’ remarked Ruby Walsh, rather ruefully.

Paul Nicholls said: “We won’t worry whether that was his last run. Ruby said he jumped the water jump, stretched and then wasn’t happy and so pulled him up.

“I will talk to Clive (Smith, owner). I am not going to make any rash decisions at the moment, he has been a wonderful horse and we will do what’s best for him.’’

Smith later indicated Kauto Star was likely to be retired.

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