Champion Jockey Tony McCoy has a potentially strong but select book of rides for this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
McCoy is closing in on his 19th Jockeys’ Title at a strike-rate bettered by him just once in the past 10 years.
There’s no bigger race than the Champion Hurdle and McCoy again takes the ride on My Tent Or Yours, which he has taken both the Fighting Fifth and Christmas Hurdle on this season.
Speaking at the Official Preview Night on Sunday at the Racecourse, McCoy said: “I’ve been impressed by My Tent Or Yours. He’s a keen going horse so I hope Captain Cee Bee being in the field means they go a decent gallop early on. The drying ground is a big help.”
The Henderson gelding is the choice of JP McManus’ retained rider despite Jezki also being owned by him. However McCoy also feels Hurricane Fly is the one to beat.
“You simply can’t knock Hurricane Fly, he’s a 19-time Grade 1 winner, twice a winner of this and the one to beat again. Jezki stays well but has had to be ridden for speed so far. Him and Our Conor have it to beat The Fly so it’s just whether the UK pair are better than him for me.”
In the opening race of the Festival, the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, McCoy is on Boylesports.com hurdle winner Gilgamboa for Enda Bolger.
McCoy said: “Phil Smith (handicapper) is surprised we don’t go the handicap route off his mark but he’s a good horse and has an e/w chance. He stays well which is a boost and can run well off a strong pace.”
Kid Cassidy is given a chance in a weak looking Champion Chase. The gelding beat favourite Sire De Grugy over C&D in November getting 10lb from that rival.
“He’s very keen going but actually quite slow. He thinks he is faster than he actually is. You need to give him plenty of time but he stays well.
McCoy added: “There’s no doubt he’s never been quite right since that horrible incident at Newbury six years ago or so. He needs a breakneck gallop and he got that here in Shloer and also in last year’s Grand Annual which he finished second in. Sire De Grugy has improved throughout this season though and deserves to be favourite.”
Taquin De Seuil is another fair hope of a McCoy winner with the Jonjo O’Neill horse going to battle with some familiar rivals in the JLT Novices’ Chase.
“Taquin De Seuil likes soft ground but he goes fine and should be okay on better ground which we’re likely to get it. It probably suits Oscar Whisky more though and I think he’s the one to beat.”
The World Hurdle saw a touch decision for McCoy with At Fishers Cross being his chosen mount over More Of That. Both are on course to run in a race that is seen by many as a showdown between young pretender Annie Power and four-time winner of the race Big Buck’s.
McCoy said: “I know At Fishers Cross will stay. He had physical problems earlier in the season but he’s a lot better now and I felt a difference just before the Cleeve Hurdle. More Of That has only won over 2m4f so it’s unknown whether he stays.”
He added: “I know Andy Stewart and Paul Nicholls will make this a proper stamina test to get at Annie Power. Celestial Halo could go off pretty quick and they also have Saphir De Rheu and Salubrious who can determine how the race will be run. Big Buck’s is the best stayer I’ve ever seen too so I think he can win.”
In the feature Gold Cup on Friday, McCoy will take the ride on Hennessy winner Triolo D’Alene. However he feels Bobs Worth is the one to beat again this year.
McCoy confirmed: “Bobs Worth will be the one to beat and I would love to be on him. He loves it round Cheltenham and stays so well.”
Triolo D’Alene meanwhile is well fancied by his trainer Nicky Henderson, who said: “Triolo D’Alene definitely runs in the Gold Cup, rider yet to be confirmed. He’s working really well at the moment; there was a piece of work 10 days ago especially that impressed.
“Aintree is the ultimate aim, but make no mistake this isn’t simply a prep race. If it was then he’d have been in a handicap instead.”
“The only real thing going for Plinth is that he’s trained by the genius Aidan O’Brien. He’d maybe have a squeak as I can see the track suiting.
“Goodwood Mirage is one I do like for the Fred Winter, he’s not had the chance to show his best yet and that means he’s well handicapped. We know he was good on the flat and I’d have him down as one of my best handicap chances of the week.”