Abuse over Denman fall puts McCoy under spotlight
PAUL Nicholls does not sleep well at the best of times, let alone when the Cheltenham countdown is into its final 30 days. Endless worries fuel his insomnia this year, but he could hardly have expected they would include the need to protect Tony McCoy.
This is the bizarre situation confronting jump racing's serial champions. McCoy has attracted a torrent of invective since parting company with Denman on Saturday. Nicholls is deemed guilty by association, some blaming him for creating the partnership and others for retaining it.
Nicholls will consider the treatment of McCoy as one of his many irritants. Routinely, he must augment the skill of training expensive horses with the diplomacy of managing ambitious owners. Jockey issues are nothing new to him.
McCoy is a deeper soul, instinct-ively private and self-critical. He is entitled to a sense of bewilderment, even a touch of hurt. This is a man with over 3,000 winners and 14 championships to his name.
But some followers now view McCoy as an enforcer rather than a horseman, an effective bully amid the lowlife of midweek country tracks but not an artist for the high days. This is a curious perspective and will find no support in the weighing-room, where McCoy commands unswerving admiration.
There is, though, a reason for the growing impression. Quite simply, McCoy does not ride enough of the best horses.
His principal day job involves riding for Jonjo O'Neill, a prolific supplier of winners, but a yard lacking stars. McCoy does get on some fine animals for Nicky Henderson, but only after Barry Geraghty has had his pick.
Ruby Walsh has had fewer than a quarter of the rides that McCoy has had in Britain this season, yet won almost as much prize money.
At each of the past three Festivals, he has managed only one winner. He has plenty of prospects this year for his employer, JP McManus, but Denman is a chance on the grandest stage. After all these years spent admiring his fortitude, surely he deserves it? (© The Times, London)