THEY say that truth is stranger than fiction and it was surely never better illustrated than by the circumstances which saw Tony McCoy pilot Finger Onthe Pulse to victory in the www.thetote.com Galway Plate yesterday.
Finger Onthe Pulse is owned by J P McManus, who was also due to be represented in the race by the Michael Hourigan trained Dancing Tornado.
But Dancing Tornado was lame and had to be withdrawn and McCoy, as McManus’ retained jockey, switched to the winner.
And then the British champion proceeded to give the nine-year-old one of the greatest rides ever seen at this amazing seven-day extravaganza.
He had his charge near the front throughout and, in many ways, virtually controlled the contest, giving trainer, Tom Taafe, a badly needed boost.
Taaffe had been suffering horrendously for many months and hadn’t had a winner since Smoking Aces scored at Punchestown on February 17.
“There are people in much worse situations, but we have had a very bad time of it”, exclaimed this most personable of characters.
McCoy made his move going out on the final circuit, urging Finger Onthe Pulse to stride on.
One by one Finger Onthe Pulse met the challenges as they arose, but there was one final danger looming large on the horizon, Themoonandsixpence.
Willie Mullins’ gelding was woefully short on experience, with just two runs under his belt, and had never gone to a first fence as fast as they travelled here.
He pitched at the back of it, survived and then gradually warmed to the task and his jumping was well nigh impeccable afterwards.
Indeed, coming away from the final fence, and heading up hill to the home turn, Themoonandsixpence headed the winner.
But it was only briefly and McCoy, wise old fox that he is, had saved a little and Finger Onthe Pulse was soon back on terms.
Then the pair set down to slug it out, but it was Finger Onthe Pulse who dug the deepest to score by half a length, with Majestic Concorde a further two lengths away in third.
“I’ve won a Galway Hurdle before (Athy Spirit as a jockey), but never the Plate”, said Taaffe, as he was showered with congratulations.
“I knew he was back to the form he showed before winning the Jewson (2008) at Cheltenham.
“He was owned by Conor Clarkson then, but there has been a change of colours since. J P was big enough and brave enough to buy him.
“He is a tough horse with class and likes nice ground. My horses have been wrong for months, but this fellow was showing all the right signs over the last six or eight weeks. I would have been very disappointed if he wasn’t in the first four.”
McCoy and McManus have enjoyed a remarkable few months together. They combined to land the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in March with Binocular and then Don’t Push It won them the Aintree Grand National in April.
For McManus this was a fourth Plate, to go with Shining Flame, Grimes and Far From Trouble.
The latest of these was Far From Trouble in 2006 and, of course, that was another dramatic day. McCoy should have partnered him, but was injured earlier in the afternoon and Roger Loughran took over. If McCoy privately allowed himself a wry smile it would have been more than understandable.
Commented McCoy: “His (Finger Onthe Pulse) figures weren’t very inspiring, but he was going well at Punchestown last time when I fell off him!
“He enjoyed himself in front, but has a tendency to go left at his fences and did that two out and again at the last.
“Themoonandsixpence went past me, but I hadn’t got into my lad and knew he’d find a bit. He’s a tough horse.”
McCoy was severely cautioned regarding his use of the whip, while Davy Russell, who rode Majestic Concorde, was suspended for a day for using his whip with excessive frequency.
And spare a thought for Mark Walsh, who was all set to ride Finger Onthe Pulse, until fate took a hand.
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