Racing: McCoy regains role as leading man

Windsor appears in a Shakespearean title, so it should have been no surprise that there should be so much drama in the most prestigious race ever staged at the Thamesside course on Saturday. The Long Walk Hurdle was the principal Winter's Tale, one in which ultimately it could have been said that All's Well That Ends Well, but there was so much in between.

Windsor appears in a Shakespearean title, so it should have been no surprise that there should be so much drama in the most prestigious race ever staged at the Thamesside course on Saturday. The Long Walk Hurdle was the principal Winter's Tale, one in which ultimately it could have been said that All's Well That Ends Well, but there was so much in between.

It became clear before curtain up that this was an occasion on which Tony McCoy was intent on reclaiming centre stage. It has been a strange season for the dominant National Hunt riding figure of modern times. Once again, he is miles ahead in the championship race, but, for the first time in virtually a decade, he no longer monopolises the attention. There is a different man riding the Martin Pipe horses these days, a different man surfing the headlines, and it is probably no great comfort to McCoy that Timmy Murphy is doing it with an élan which will never characterise his own work.

Most of all, Murphy has been at his most conspicuous in the most conspicuous of races, the Saturday specials. By this weekend, McCoy had had enough. It was time for a grand gesture. Baracouda was the vehicle on Saturday and McCoy determined before games that he would ride the gelding much closer to the pace than tradition dictated. He would do his own thing. We knew this because McCoy told Norman Williamson beforehand, and as the ex- jockey had a microphone in his hand and a camera pointing over his shoulder, he was sharing it with the nation as well. The only man not in on the secret seemed to be François Doumen, Baracouda's trainer.

As the race unfolded, Doumen was a figure of exasperation from his viewing point, throwing his hands up in Gallic expression as Baracouda pulled himself close to the front. This was not the way to do it. Well, it was not the way that Doumen's son, the now retired Thierry, used to do it anyway. There was a reek throughout Saturday's proceedings that while defeat for Baracouda would not have been welcomed by Doumen, it would have at least given him buckshot to fire at those who ever deemed to criticise his son's adventures on the horse.

François, of all people, should know a simple truth. Thierry Doumen did not ride Baracouda because their talents were similar. He did not ride him because he was the best jockey in France or even the best jockey in Chantilly. He rode him because he was the trainer's son. When they mention Archer, Richards and Piggott, Winter, Francome and Dunwoody, they seem to miss out the name of Thierry Doumen. There is a reason for that, the same reason that, in terms of outside rides, they called him the Christmas Tree. He got put up once a year. Think of a French version of Mark Pitman in his riding days.

All the post-race chat in the winners' enclosure seemed to be between McCoy and Baracouda's owner, JP McManus. Doumen only became involved with the jockey on the winners' rostrum, where the conversation was lengthy and apparently laborious. McCoy had not won by far. The winning distances were only three-quarters of a length and a short-head from Crystal D'Ainay and the finishing bullet that was Rule Supreme, but they were winning distances.

The Irishman's ploy was a gamble, but then gambles always look very good when they come off. McCoy will have factored that in. He must have also thought it would make him the most outrageous figure of racing's weekend. In that particular contest, he finished second.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000 : SThree: Recruitment is a sales role ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'