Racing: McCoy out with fractured shoulder

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The Independent Online
Tony McCoy grabbed 1996 by the scruff of the neck and made it his own, with a first National Hunt jockeys' championship and winners beyond counting, but 1997 is proving an altogether more difficult opponent. Less than a week after the sudden and acrimonious conclusion of his association with Paul Nicholls, McCoy yesterday suffered a fractured shoulder in a horrible fall at Wincanton, and his prospects of riding at the Cheltenham Festival, perhaps even of securing the second title which had appeared a foregone conclusion, are in serious doubt.

McCoy was riding Speedy Snapsgem in the Maurice Lister Maiden Chase, a barrel-scraping contest which only five of the 16 starters managed to complete, with the champion's mount getting no further than the first fence. McCoy was attended by paramedics before being transferred by ambulance to Yeovil General Hospital, where X-rays confirmed that his left shoulder was fractured. His mount did not survive.

"Tony is a very brave young man," Chris Browne, Wincanton's racecourse doctor, said, "but it was plain to see that he was extremely uncomfortable."

The recuperative powers of jump jockeys are the stuff of legend, not least when Cheltenham is less than seven weeks away, but the accepted convalescence period after such an injury is around two months, and McCoy's chance of clambering into a saddle on Champion Hurdle day - 11 March - must now be no better than even money. "I don't think he will be back very quickly," Dr Michael Turner, the Jockey Club's chief medical adviser, said last night. "You should never write them off, and we won't know the exact situation for a day or two, but I think you're likely to be looking at about eight weeks."

Martin Pipe, who accompanied McCoy to hospital, was a little more optimistic. "He will possibly be out for six weeks," the trainer said. "I'm hoping he will be back for Cheltenham."

If the Festival is in the balance, the championship may be a different story, which is a measure of how throughly McCoy dominates the jumping game, despite having arrived in Britain barely three years ago. Before yesterday's mishap, McCoy had ridden 130 winners, more than twice as many as Adrian Maguire, his closest - if that is the word - pursuer with 63.

Assuming that McCoy's injury does repair itself within the allotted two months, Maguire would need to ride around nine winners each week - which is nowhere near his current average - simply to catch up. Even then, a fit McCoy would surely accelerate away once more, but if the champion has been idle on three of the most important days of the season, a second championship would offer only a measure of consolation.

It was a bad day at the office for other riders too. The same dismal contest in which McCoy was injured - the runners had 146 outings but not a single win to their credit - left Simon Burrough with a broken collar- bone which will take three weeks to heal and Norman Williamson nursing a bruised elbow and shin which may sideline him today.

The office in question for Fergal Lynch was the one in which the Jockey Club's Disciplinary Committee met to consider his ride on Mijas on 14 January. He was found guilty of causing interference there and banned for eight days, thereby triggering an automatic additional 14-day ban under the totting-up system. Five of the resulting 22 days will be deferred until 6 May.

"I was very disappointed with the outcome," Lynch said, and he can at least look forward to a visit to America during his enforced holiday. "It was the prize for winning the apprentice series at Pontefract and I had to take it before March, so now seems as good a time as any."