Sir Anthony McCoy on this year's Cheltenham Festival
I’m looking forward to the Cheltenham Festival but it’s going to be a test now to be honest. I’ll be looking at JP McManus’ horses winning there hopefully, and I’ll be delighted as I’m still working for him, but there will be an element of me that thinks it would be great if I was still riding.
I used to go into the weighing room at half nine every morning at the Festival and I’d literally only come out for racing. It was like a little hiding place that I could lock myself away and didn’t have to talk to anyone. I’m not going to have that this year, so it’s going to be very, very different.
It’s going to be a lot less stressful, but I don’t really want to be relaxed. There’s no real fun in having a relaxed life. That’s not something I’ve ever had before and I’m going to miss that build up and that buzz… that unpredictability really.
One of my most cherished moments at The Festival was winning the Gold Cup on Synchronised. I also remember after I won on Blowing Wind - that was when I’d ridden the last three winners of the 1998 Festival. Everyone I’d ever spoken to had backed them. Make A Stand winning the Champion Hurdle sticks in the memory as well.
My best ride? When I won the Arkle on Champleve or Edredon Bleu winning the Champion Chase. A lot of people will always say Wichita Lineman winning the William Hill Trophy was my best, but I think winning the Arkle on Champleve because I didn’t really think he could ever be an Arkle winner.
Jonjo O’Neill is going to have very few runners, but More Of That, Minella Rocco, Johns Spirit and Taquin De Seuil should all run well. If I was looking for other trainers who might have a good Festival, I’d go with Gordon Elliott. He's a young trainer and he’s got a huge team going. Gordon's got a strong hand and I think he’s going to have a big week.
There’s no doubt that Willie Mullins and Ruby Walsh will have a good Festival, but I don’t know if they’ll be as dominant as people thought they were going to be six weeks ago, with the likes of Faugheen and Arctic Fire out. It’s still a huge team and with the likes of Min, Un de Sceaux, Douvan, Limini, Vroum Vroum Mag and Annie Power they have a host of favourites who are going to be a force to be reckoned with.
There’ll be a few interesting jockey decisions in the Gold Cup, but if I was in Ruby Walsh’s shoes I couldn’t ride Vautour. I know he’s won twice at Cheltenham and he has been a fantastic horse but he’s never won over any further than two miles and five furlongs. He’s going up to the Gold Cup trip and he didn’t look like a stayer at Kempton to me. I know Ruby thinks Vautour is a machine, but there’s no point riding a machine if he doesn’t get the trip. Djakadam will definitely get the trip, so I would ride him instead.
Bryan Cooper’s decision is probably more difficult, because Don Poli has won twice at Cheltenham Festival and was a good winner of the RSA last year. Don Cossack has been to the Cheltenham Festival twice and not performed but I would ride him. He’s a classier horse, has a bit more tactical speed and he looks to have the stamina as well.
If I had the choice of a horse I’d pick Djakadam or Don Cossack.
Smad Place has been a huge improver and has done unbelievably well since they’ve started riding him more aggressively. I didn’t really give Cue Card a lot of chance of winning the Gold Cup but the more I think of it the more you have to give him the credit.
I think there could be four horses going to the last in the Gold Cup and they’ll be Cue Card, Don Poli, Don Cossack and Djakadam and I think Don Cossack might be the one that will come out on top.
There’s been a lot of talk about Victoria Pendleton riding in the Foxhunter Chase. She’s been very dedicated, she’s worked hard and she’s made unbelievable progress in a year to have gone from never riding a horse, to riding in the Foxhunter.
Victoria’s riding a very seasoned campaigner who is a good jumper and I know she fell off him at Fakenham, but I think she’ll be fine. I don’t have any worries whatsoever. She’s not going to win because Pacha Du Polder won’t stay but I think it’s good for the game. Oscar Wilde said it’s better to be talked about than not be talked about, and she’s getting people talking about racing. She’ll be grand and she’ll get round. It takes a lot of dedication and the fact that she already has a sports person’s mentality - only someone like that could do it.
I see Joseph O’Brien has retired from the saddle to concentrate on training and somebody asked me if I thought he’d make a good trainer? Oh, I have no doubt! He’s basically a mini me of his old man, so that will tell you what chance he has. He’s the sort of lad that will dedicate his life to it and he’ll be good. Also, talk about being bred to be a race horse trainer; his mum was a champion trainer and his dad’s a champion trainer, so there’s a very good chance he might do the same.He could well have a Cheltenham Festival winner in the future. He’s training horses for JP McManus and it’s a great operation. It’s one of the best gallops in the world and I have no doubt that he is going to be very successful.
I’m going to have a charity bet on each day of the Cheltenham Festival and Tiny Tickers is my chosen charity. My son had heart surgery at six months old and my wife and I are both patrons.
Tuesday - Minella Rocco in the National Hunt Steeple Chase.
He ran very well last time at Ascot, it’s the first time this year he’s looked like a race horse and I know some people aregiving Vyta Du Roc a chance for the RSA and given a little further I think he might have beaten him. Jonjo has won the four miler plenty of times before so he’s got a lot going for him.
£500 Win @ 5/1
Wednesday - More Of That in the RSA.
A former World Hurdle winner and he’s got everything going for him. It’s very difficult to put anyone off him.
£500 Win @ 9/4
Thursday - Cause of Causes in the Kim Muir.
He’s been to Cheltenham a couple times, won there last year, likes the course and I think he ran very well at Naas last time.
£500 Win @ 6/1
Friday - Unowhatimeanharry each way in Albert Bartlett
He likes it a Cheltenham, is on a bit of a roll and he’s rated 152.
£500 Each-Way @ 16/1
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