For most jockeys, losing the support of their main stable to illness would be a disaster. For Tony McCoy, no ordinary jockey, the closure of the virus-stricken Jonjo O'Neill yard has simply opened new stable doors. Yesterday it allowed the champion to link up with the trainers Gary Moore and Martin Pipe to complete a treble at Sandown which peaked with victory on board Tamarinbleu in the £100,000 Ladbroke Hurdle.
The win also sealed a treble for Pipe, McCoy's long-standing employer until this season and still one of the Ulsterman's biggest fans des-pite the acquisition of Timmy Murphy as rider for his principal owner, David Johnson. Murphy did not miss out entirely as he partnered Marcel, this season's winning-most horse, to his ninth success this campaign for Pipe and Johnson in the Tolworth Hurdle.
But it was Pipe and McCoy's rekindling of the good old days that hugged attention. Since joining O'Neill, McCoy has not enjoyed the sort of consistent success to which he had become accustomed, and his new stable has supplied fewer than half his 147 wins, while Pipe has produced two-thirds of Murphy's 93 victories. It is a situation that has caused frustration and thinly veiled complaints from McCoy, and yesterday's treble is the sort of Saturday success which he craves to satisfy his gnawing hunger for winners.
With Pipe saddling six in the Ladbroke Hurdle and Murphy on board Johnson's Escompteur, who eventually finished down the field, a vacancy had arisen for the old firm to combine. "I popped in to see Mr Pipe on my way home from Exeter the other day and he said that I would be riding this horse," McCoy said. "That suited me, because I always thought he was the type to improve this season.
"He was very good. He travelled and he jumped well all the way. And obviously he was as fit as you like, coming from where he does."
Pipe said that he had spotted Tamarinbleu as the winner some way from the finish. "He was at the back but I could see he was going well, and at the third-last I said I thought he'd got it," he smiled. Tamarinbleu hit the front approaching the second-last, quickly went clear and never looked in danger, holding off Self Defense by four lengths.
In fact the result may have been apparent to Pipe some time earlier as the success was clearly not unexpected. "Tamarinbleu goes well fresh," Pipe added. "and although he took some time to come to himself this season we decided to keep him for this race because it is a nice prize to win."
McCoy's treble, at accumulative odds of 1,011-1, had commenced on 8-1 chance Diego Cao, another to outshine a shorter-priced stablemate, the 2-1 favourite Nation State, ridden by the son of the trainer, Brighton-based Gary Moore.
McCoy again showed up his colleagues in the mares' handicap hurdle on Pipe's Bongo Fury, who upstaged Murphy on Pipe stablemate and favourite La Lambertine.
Murphy did have the pleasure of maintaining his winning relationship with Marcel - the middle leg of Pipe's 449-1 treble. The ultra-tough gelding was always prominent in the Tolworth Hurdle, but looked to have a real race on approaching the last flight as he moved upsides the long-time leader, Chilling Place.
However, Chilling Place pecked on landing and weakened into third, giving the Grade One race to the 3-1 shot, who kept on to hold It's Just Harry by two lengths.
Wild Passion, the Irish raider who had usurped Marcel as favourite, had every chance but did not quicken when it mattered, keeping on into fourth. In a dramatic race, Astronomic fell in the back straight, bringing down New Entic and hampering My Way De Solzen. Jim Culloty, on the faller, was rolled on by the horse and ordered to miss the rest of his rides.