James Lawton: Redemption for peerless jockey after year of hurt

They dressed Tony McCoy and Brave Inca in the Irish Tricolour but really it was victory that went beyond even the tribal passions that invade this English valley each year. It was something that a man keeps forever. It was, above all, about the life's work of a rider whose need to win had never been as frustrated as it was here for four days of racing calvary last year.

McCoy's reaction to winning the Champion Hurdle, a race he last claimed nine years ago, would have been extraordinary in some youthful prodigy of the jockeys' room.

In a man who has acquainted himself so relentlessly with the sensation of winning, for whom it has become an unshakeable addiction, it was the extravagant expression of sheer relief that his trial at the greatest testing ground of National Hunt riding was finally over.

He had thought this was so an hour earlier when he presumed, a heartbeat or two too early, that he had delivered for J P McManus the first win of the great festival. But as his Straw Bear stretched for the line, he was engulfed by the brilliant finish of his compatriot Ruby Walsh on Noland.

McCoy came into the unsaddling enclosure with a face as thunderous as any he wore last year when he went those bitter days without a taste of victory. Then, he reported: "My peg in the jockeys' room was next to Richard Johnson's. He didn't have a winner either, and you can imagine what a bundle of laughs we were. After each race we looked at each other and said, 'What the hell's going on'?"

Yesterday, the world of Tony McCoy was perfectly synchronised again and it helped in his moment of Cheltenham redemption that he and the eight-year-old he had marked down, as an article of faith, a certain winner, had to triumph in a race which captured all the courage and the beauty of this greatest of all gatherings of horses and men.

McCoy and Brave Inca moved beautifully on to the endlessly brave double winner Hardy Eustace as they came to the final fence, and when they powered their way up the most inquiring piece of rising ground in all of equine sport, the jockey's joy was so tangible it might have been lit by neon. He raised his whip to the crowd, and then pumped it repeatedly. It was a celebration of more than one win. It was deliverance. Part of the relief, no doubt, came from the force of McCoy's conviction that he had chosen the winning horse. He had made a statement of great boldness and, when he got past the post, perhaps deep down, he was also celebrating a spectacular vindication; certainly Cheltenham's suspicion that Brave Inca represented poor value at 15-8 and 7-4 was contradicted by the widely circulating belief that McManus, perhaps the ultimate arbiter of such matters, considered the odds not at all ungenerous.

If that was the reported extent of the confidence of McManus, who was also rumoured to have made a six-figure bet on the eight-year-old, maybe McCoy might have felt a certain obligation to prove himself as good a judge as rider.

When he hit the rising ground, however, he and Brave Inca made it all seem much ado about the blindingly obvious. Conor O'Dwyer and Hardy Eustace had certainly fulfilled their obligation. There would be no easy retreat from the old glory, and the defending champion came into the bravest of third places, behind Macs Joy.

For trainer Colm Murphy there was also the sweet sense of hard judgements bringing the reward of an ultimate success. He said: "Tony McCoy is as tough as old nails, just like this horse. As Ted Walsh said, the horse would have to be dead two days to stop battling and McCoy would probably carry on riding if he had no arms or legs.

"Replacing Inca's former rider Barry Cash with Tony wasn't a decision you would want to make. Barry made the horse, did all the schooling and we wouldn't be here today without him."

But, then, who knows where they would have been without McCoy in the mood that gripped him in the shadow of Cleeve Hill yesterday? When irked by too many questions about his blank run here last year, he protested that it was just one of those occasional combinations of circumstance, trying as it was at the time.

No, it didn't burrow under his skin. It didn't leave him restless in the night and edgy in the dawn. It didn't seem like the end of something to which he had become unbreakably accustomed.

Yes, everyone agreed. Then they watched him deliver Brave Inca and were reminded that often the greatest celebrations come after the deepest hurt.

Indeed, McCoy was celebrating more than one great win. It was more in the way of a re-birth.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Film director Martin Scorsese
film
Life and Style
life
News
news

The party's potential nominations read like a high school race for student body president

Voices
A mother and her child
voices
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballI have never seen the point of lambasting the fourth official, writes Paul Scholes
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: .Net / SQL Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A skilled .NET developer with e...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technical Support Engineer - PC/Mac

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are cur...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee