McCoy gets 'Forpady' call-up from Cooper
TONY McCOY is becoming the jockey to whom owners and trainers turn in times of need.
Kerry trainer Tom Cooper was the latest to do so when he booked the British champion jockey for his talented Forpadydeplasterer in next month's Queen Mother Champion Chase at Cheltenham after Barry Geraghty, who rode the horse to win the Irish Independent Arkle Trophy last year, made himself unavailable.
It would be stretching matters to suggest that the record-breaking Co Antrim man has become this festival's 'supersub', but his collection of outside rides is starting to look impressive. Apart from Forpadydeplasterer, he partners Denman for trainer Paul Nicholls in the Gold Cup and is likely to get the leg-up on Zaynar for Nicky Henderson in the Champion Hurdle.
Geraghty was aboard 'Forpady' when the gelding schooled after racing at Leopardstown on Sunday, but he is likely to ride Big Zeb in the Queen Mother, providing he is released by his retaining stable, who have Petit Robin entered.
Cooper, praised for his astute handling of Forpadydeplasterer, has worked miracles to get him back for this festival as the horse was virtually ruled out three weeks ago after a setback. Now he is back with what appears a solid each-way chance.
"I was delighted with the way he jumped (in Sunday's schooling session)," Cooper said. "He put in some mighty leaps, so he must be feeling well in himself.
"Also, he won't have been mad about that (heavy) ground, and it will be a lot better at Cheltenham. We'll take him away for one more bit of work somewhere early next week."
Forpadydeplasterer had drifted to 16/1 for the two-mile event on March 17, with Master Minded favourite at a best-priced 4/5. Kalahari King can be backed at 13/2.
Henderson had a press gathering yesterday to talk about his team for the festival, during which the Seven Barrows trainer said that Punchestowns and Long Run were the two best chasers he had ever trained. So he would be entitled to have mixed feelings about them meeting in the RSA Chase, which can often prove one gruelling test too many for even the most talented.
Stablemate Burton Port, the recent winner of Ascot's Reynoldstown Chase, is also to take his chance in the staying novice chase, at the request of owner Trevor Hemmings. Punchestowns appears to have come through the rigours of a head-to-head with Big Buck's in last year's Ladbrokes World Hurdle well, so that experience may give him an edge. A gallop at Newbury on Sunday will put the finishing touches to his preparation.
Geraghty will be aboard Punchestowns and is also likely to partner Punjabi, rather than Zaynar, as he defends his crown in the Champion Hurdle. "AP is happy to take what he gets and I think Barry will stay loyal to the horse he won it on last year," said Henderson, who expressed his surprise at the respective odds of his two contenders.
"I find it odd that Zaynar is shorter in the betting," he said. "But Punjabi has always been under-rated. Unless he regains it, he could go down as one of the most forgotten champions. People say he's not sexy but he is very good -- and he's had a much better preparation than last year."
Paddy Power, who will return losing bets on the Supreme Novices' Hurdle if favourite Dunguib wins, offer 6/4 about Henderson winning the RSA Chase and 9/2 about him being champion trainer at the festival. He is 4/1 to win the Champion Hurdle with either Punjabi and Zaynar.
Oscar Whisky is the main Henderson challenger to Dunguib and the five-year-old is unbeaten in four starts -- marking himself out as one the leading lights among the home defence with his recent Sandown strike.
"He definitely runs and has always been very pacy and very talented," said Henderson. "He has not had a big scrap yet and has to contend with Dunguib so he'll know he's had a scrap this time, but he does have talent."
Bellvano is another prominent in the Supreme betting but the JP McManus-owned six-year-old could bypass the race for the County Hurdle, depending on McManus' running plans.
"He's also in the County and I am not sure where he will go," said Henderson. "I talked to JP on Sunday and we also have Quantitativeeasing, while he also has the likes of Get Me Out Of Here and they all have to be juggled around."
General Miller is another Henderson contender in the Supreme and the Henry Ponsonby-owned five-year-old is 20/1 alongside Bellvano after his defeat at the track in January. (© Daily Telegraph, London)