RETIRING jockey AP McCoy ensured his final visit to the Cheltenham Festival would not be forlorn after plotting a brave front-running victory on Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase yesterday.
The Alan King-trained seven-year-old, an 18/1 shot, led from the start for 19-times champion jockey McCoy, finishing ahead of Ma Filleule in second and 5-2 favourite Don Cossack in third.
“I would love to say it’s a relief but I actually got such a thrill riding him,” said McCoy, after winning his 31st Festival winner. “I was actually thinking I wouldn’t mind riding the horse in next year’s Champion Chase.
“He ran away with me for a mile and a half and I thought he would never keep it up but I was quite happy coming down the hill. He kept looking at the television camera on his inside and I thought he had saved a bit for himself.
“I’m just going to try and enjoy my job for what’s left of it but Cheltenham is all about winning.”
Owner JP McManus has held a long associton with retained jockey McCoy, and gave an indication just how much he will miss the Northern Irishman once he has retired.
“We’ve had him cloned,” said McManus. “I admire all jockeys but AP is some man. Christy Roche rang me some years ago and said ‘he should be handicapped, not the horses’ and I’ve always remembered that.
“We’ve never signed a contract or anything. I respect him and love everything he does. It’s great to be at Cheltenham and have a man like AP at your side. I’m just so happy that he has had a winner at his last Cheltenham.”
Cole Harden, meanwhile, upset the odds by clinching victory in the Ladbrokes World Hurdle after the 14-1 chance overpowerd Paul-Nicholls trained pair Saphir Du Rheu and Zarkandar to win by three-and-a-quarter lengths.
Amateur jockey Tom Weston was airlifted to nearby Southmead Hospital following a fall in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup while riding Benbane Head.