Sport Horse Racing

Friday 23 February 2018

McCoy turns on style to get Gilgamboa home in feature

Gitane Du Berlais (Ruby Walsh), Smashing (Johnny Burke) and eventual winner Gilgamboa, under Tony McCoy, jump the last in the Ryanair Gold Cup
Gitane Du Berlais (Ruby Walsh), Smashing (Johnny Burke) and eventual winner Gilgamboa, under Tony McCoy, jump the last in the Ryanair Gold Cup
Jockey Tony McCoy after Gilgamboa won the Ryanair Gold Cup Novice Steeplechase

Thomas Kelly

Tony McCoy treated racegoers at Fairyhouse to another masterclass as the soon-to-retire champion jockey drove Gilgamboa to victory in a thrilling Ryanair Gold Cup.

The legendary rider will call it a day at some stage within the next few weeks and after ruling out riding at the Punchestown Festival, his appearance at the Meath venue this weekend looks set to be his last as a jockey on Irish soil.

And he showed all in attendance just what they will be missing in his own inimitable way.

Gilgamboa - owned by his chief retainer JP McManus - was a 7/1 shot for the Grade One feature and success for Enda Bolger's stable star looked unlikely as the field straightened up for home.

Having led her rivals for much of the way, 5/4 favourite Gitane Du Berlais was still travelling well on the bridle at the top of the straight. Smashing quickly ranged alongside to challenge and the pair looked set to fight it out.

However, the complexion of the race changed dramatically as a huge leap at the last brought Gilgamboa right on terms.

Bolger's charge galloped all the way to the line to hold off The Tullow Tank, which came from the clouds to be beaten just half a length in second.

Smashing was just ahead of Gitane Du Berlais in third.

"Fair play to Enda. I'm delighted to ride a big winner for him before I retire," said McCoy (above).

"He might be horse for the Lexus at Christmas if he has his conditions. He'll be a nice ride for somebody, but it won't be me."

Bolger added: "It's great to win a race like this and to have that man on top. I don't know whether he'll go to Punchestown for the three-mile novice or not."

McCoy was similarly brilliant earlier in the afternoon when Sir Scorpion justified 6/4 favouritism in the Gleesons Butchers Novice Handicap Hurdle at Fairyhouse.

Dual Irish champion Flat jockey Joseph O'Brien was in position to secure a first winner over jumps aboard Marchese Marconi until a final-flight error saw the rider slither to the turf.

McCoy sensed his opportunity and threw everything at the Tom Mullins-trained Sir Scorpion to get him home by a length and a quarter.

Harry Fry enjoyed his first taste of Grade One glory as a trainer after Noel Fehily guided Bitofapuzzle to an impressive display in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Mares Novice Hurdle Championship Final.

The seven-year-old was the 3/1 favourite on the strength of her third in the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at Cheltenham and galloped clear from the home turn, beating Petite Parisienne by four and a quarter lengths. A career over fences now beckons next season.

Cheltenham Festival runner-up Shaneshill emphatically went one better in the Coolmore NH Sires Leading Light & Ocovango Novice Hurdle.

The Willie Mullins-trained six-year-old was the 4/9 favourite, having chased home stable companion Douvan in the Supreme Novices' Hurdle, and scooted 13 lengths clear of stablemate Outlander in the hands of Ruby Walsh.

"He'll go to Punchestown and, on that run, it looks like he'll stay at that trip. He'll go chasing next year," said the champion trainer.


Tony Martin and Paul Townend got their afternoon off to a flying start as Voices Of Spring (12/1) took advantage of 2/5 favourite Unic De Bersy's fall at the fourth last to cruise clear in the Choice Hotel Group Maiden Hurdle.

Terence O'Brien's Ballyadam Approach was another to benefit from the fall of a rival in the novice handicap chase. Having made most of the running, the 11/2 shot was being challenged by Dyios at the last when that one came a cropper - allowing David Splain's mount come home over four lengths clear of Mr Fiftyone .

Mullins combined with son Patrick to claim the bumper courtesy of Castello Sforza (9/2), which saw off Sunni May by two lengths - a victory that was notable as it was the first jumps victory on these shores for Pearl Bloodstock, which is owned by Sheikh Fahad.

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