McCoy to stick with Kiely's Lough for Gold Cup
Carlingford Lough will be charged with carrying the mighty AP McCoy to a fairytale swansong triumph in the Gold Cup after the 19-time champion yesterday committed to riding John Kiely's Hennessy Gold Cup victor at Cheltenham.
McCoy will be competing in the marquee Grade One for a final time after announcing that he will not ride beyond this season, and Jonjo O'Neill's Cheltenham Festival specialist Holywell was his other possible mount.
"He gave me a great feel winning the Hennessy and I am very much looking forward to riding him in the Gold Cup, if he lines up," McCoy said of the JP McManus-owned Carlingford Lough.
"People might look back to last year and point out he was only sixth in the RSA, but he never really got into a rhythm and we saw more of what he was capable of when he won the Grade One at Punchestown. John Kiely has the horse in great shape and he is definitely going there with a chance."
McCoy will be striving for a third success in the Gold Cup, and he will be aboard Jezki when he goes in search of his fourth Champion Hurdle after Jessica Harrington insisted that she would not look for him to be replaced by her old ally Barry Geraghty in a bid to reunite last year's winning firm.
Geraghty is unbeaten in five aboard McManus' Jezki, having last stepped in when McCoy preferred the eventual runner-up My Tent Or Yours in the Prestbury Park two-miler in 2014. McCoy is 3-7 on the Irish Champion Hurdle third, but, when asked if there was a possibility of Geraghty getting back in the hot seat for Cheltenham, Harrington stressed that she hasn't countenanced the switch.
"No - it has never come up and I wouldn't even ask the question," she said at a media event in her Moone, Co Kildare yard yesterday. "AP is JP's jockey and he has first choice. If the horse is good enough, it doesn't matter who the jockey is. The horse has got to be good enough on the day."
Of McCoy, she added: "He's pushed the bar of endurance and everything to do with riding beyond any limit that's been before."
The legendary Co Antrim native will be attempting to join Tim Molony as the Champion Hurdle's leading rider by plundering it for a fourth time, and Harrington reckons Willie Mullins' rising star Faugheen will be his most significant obstacle.
"I have no hesitation in saying Faugheen is the biggest danger," she said. "He has beaten what's been served up to him in England and he's the unknown quantity.
"Jezki came out of Leopardstown well. We're on schedule at the moment and, touching all wood, everything is going according to plan."
Asked if she had been surprised by Hurricane Fly's renewed superiority this term, Harrington admitted that she was. "I have been," she conceded of the 11-year-old dual title-holder. "When he appeared in the Morgiana I thought he looked as fit as a flea. Willie has said that he has him in a better place than he has had him probably ever. It would be no surprise if he did go and win another Champion Hurdle - it would be a great feat of training."
Harrington confirmed that Jetson will tackle the World Hurdle, and yesterday's Clonmel winner Ttebbob is among her entries for the 11 Festival handicaps unveiled yesterday. The weights will be revealed on Wednesday.
Noel Meade, meanwhile, has indicated that his leading Gold Cup contender Road To Riches will have a racecourse gallop at "either Leopardstown or Navan" as he puts the finishing touches to the Lexus Chase hero.
"He's in good shape," Meade reported of Road To Riches.