McCoy heads Denman list
If Ruby Walsh's alliance with Paul Nicholls is the most coveted riding job, the opposite is true of the post as Nicholls' number two. No jockey can evidently fill the position to the trainer's satisfaction.
In recent seasons, Joe Tizzard, Christian Williams and Sam Thomas have all failed to deliver the standard demanded by Britain's champion trainer. Thomas's ejection towards the end of last season ushered Williams back into the saddle for a second stint, yet he too appears to have been usurped after only half a season.
Walsh's sublime skills render it nigh on impossible for any deputy to deliver the same service. Yet while Nicholls recognises the fact, some of his owners demand standards that are beyond anyone but the best.
Hence the status quo, which sees Williams overlooked in favour of Tony McCoy and Barry Geraghty on the stable's fancied runners when Walsh is unavailable. It has been happening with such frequency of late that there is no disguising the development.
All of which raises the thorny question of who will ride Denman in the Gold Cup. This time last year Paddy Power opened a book on the subject -- only to be inundated with money for McCoy. The champion's booking thus seemed a fait accompli -- until Thomas received the surprise call-up.
Interestingly, Thomas only rode What A Friend to victory in the Lexus Chase on Tuesday because Geraghty was required at Newbury 24 hours after the race was originally due to be run. And while he made it plain that he was disappointed not to be summoned in the first place, Thomas must be odds-against to ride Denman in the Gold Cup for a third successive year.
McCoy has emerged as Nicholls' go-to jockey and must be favourite to sit in the hot seat come March. And the association makes sense. No man would better exploit Denman's remorseless galloping qualities than the restless perennial British champion.