McCoy bids for epic Irish swansong
AP McCoy could make a swashbuckling final appearance in the saddle on an Irish racecourse aboard the gambled-on raider Cantlow in Monday's Irish Grand National.
The soon-to-be-crowned 20-time champion jockey will hang up his boots after either next week's Aintree Grand National or the British season finale at Sandown later this month.
His rousing Hennessy Gold Cup triumph on Carlingford Lough might yet prove to be the final time that he passes the post in front on home soil, but he has chances to replicate those unforgettable Leopardstown scenes at Fairyhouse tomorrow and Monday, and possibly again on Tuesday.
If there were to be just one more victory to add to the 150 that he has already amassed in Ireland, the markets suggest that punters would very much like it to be his boss JP McManus' Paul Webber-trained Cantlow.
Once it became clear after Wednesday's National entries emerged that Cantlow might have sufficient weight for him to be an option for McCoy, the money started to come. The 10-year-old's price has collapsed from 25/1 to a best-priced 9/1, making him clear favourite for the Boylesports-sponsored €275,000 handicap.
Beaten 14 lengths in eighth in the race 12 months ago, Cantlow hasn't won in nine starts since November 2013. However, he is in off a stone lower mark this time for just 10st 6lb, so it would be a rare old touch in keeping with some of McManus' most famous coups were he to defy form figures of F080066P to give McCoy an appropriately epic swansong. Of course, a year ago Shutthefrontdoor landed the Irish National spoils for McManus under Barry Geraghty. Jonjo O'Neill's charge has been the subject of a similar plunge for the original of the species at Aintree this day week, his odds plummeting from 25/1 earlier in the year to no better than 7/1 now.
Shutthefrontdoor hasn't run since cantering up under Geraghty on his only subsequent start at Carlisle in November, but O'Neill has spoken bullishly of his chance this week. McManus added to the sense of confidence yesterday when he joined McCoy and Paul O'Connell on a Team Limerick Clean-up initiative in his local city.
"Shutthefrontdoor will be ridden by AP in his last ever Grand National and he has been laid out for the race all year," the sport's most generous benefactor stated. "He seems to be in good form and, with luck in running, he could give a good account of himself."
McManus added that Gordon Elliott's Cheltenham winner Cause Of Causes would also tackle the Aintree showpiece, but the confirmation that Shutthefrontdoor has been "laid out for the race all year" will have bookmakers shifting uneasily.
McManus' Philip Hobbs-trained RSA Chase fifth If In Doubt is the top weight in Fairyhouse's prestigious Easter Monday event, with Tom Mullins' dual Cheltenham hero Alderwood next on the list.
Willie Mullins relies on Perfect Gentleman and Dogora in the three mile, five furlong contest, which has a full field of 30 runners, plus three reserves - Toby Lerone, Bose Ikard and Ipsos Du Berlais.
As expected, Aintree hopefuls Gallant Oscar and Goonyella were among those not declared, though Robert Tyner's fancied Embracing Change was a surprise absentee after a dirty scope.
The busy bank holiday schedule gets underway with a Flat card at Cork today, where conditions will be testing. At Fairyhouse, the going is soft to heavy, heavy in places, but a sunny forecast has track managers salivating.
"The last of the rain has passed and we can now plan for an exciting weekend," Fairyhouse's Peter Roe admitted. "This weekend will mark the last weekend we will see AP McCoy ride in Ireland and everyone should try to see him in action over the three days of the festival, as we may never again witness a sportsman like him."