Tony McCoy has a place in the hearts of all punters that regularly bet at the Cheltenham Festival. He is the 17-time Champion jockey for a reason – he quite simply is one of the best riders ever to have graced National Hunt racing.
Of the 18 winners he has celebrated at the Festival there a couple that stand out for one reason or another.
If you ask McCoy himself, he would perhaps regard his ride aboard Synchronised in the Cheltenham Gold Cup of 2012 as his finest moment at the Cheltenham Festival.
The victory came in typical dominant McCoy style and was his second success in the big race following on from his win aboard Mr Mulligan in 1997.
Synchronised was known as a notoriously terrible jumper of fences and McCoy restrained him at the back of the field in order to make sure his jumping kept him in the race.
With favourite Kauto Star pulling up early and Long Run not running to his potential, the race turned into a bit of slog and the ultimate staying power of Synchronised, added to the guts of McCoy in the saddle, saw the JP McManus-owned horse stride to the front.
He was still a near last with three to jump but under a determined McCoy the horse picked off the leaders one-by-one and powered his way to the line in front.
McCoy followers will also remember the ride he gave Wichita Lineman in the Festival Handicap Chase in 2010.
The horse in question was a typical McManus owned gamble and had seemingly been backed so that defeat was out of the question. However, the horse never jumped a fence and the fact that the horse was still in the race was two to jump was a miraculous achievement by McCoy.
He was still 15 lengths down on the leaders though and the gamble looked set to go astray.
But as the furlongs diminished McCoy was getting closer and closer aboard the gutsy stayer.
Even after the last fence he was still eight lengths down but McCoy kept pushing and pushing, and eventually as the line approached the horse got up by a nose to the delight of the punters that had followed the mammoth gamble.
The ride is famously known as one of the best rides of McCoy’s career and when you consider he’s had nearly 4,000 winners that speaks volumes.
He is raring to go for the 2013 Cheltenham Festival and he looks to have a book of fantastic rides for the four days of action at Prestbury Park.
Perhaps his most intriguing chance comes on the first day (Tuesday) in the Champion Hurdle aboard the McManus owned Darlan. McCoy has celebrated victory three times in the feature Hurdle race, with Make A Stand in 1997, Brave Inca in 2006 and Binocular in 2010, and looks to have all the horse under him to make it four.
The 7/2 shot with Bet365 landed the Fighting Fifth Hurdle at Kempton on his reappearance in fine style and trainer Nicky Henderson seems to think he will improve for better ground at Cheltenham.
Punters will be hoping McCoy can find some magic aboard Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle fancy Taquin Du Seuil, who is trained by O’Neill.
He romped clear in the Challow Novices’ Hurdle at Newbury, which gave the impression he loves soft ground.
The 12/1 on offer with Coral looks an interesting price, despite the fact all 13 Challow Hurdle winners to contest this 2m5f festival prize have failed since 1981.
McCoy has never won the top-jockey crown at the Cheltenham Festival but could be an outside shot this season at 12/1 with Bet365.