Racing: McCoy's gentle touch rewarded

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CONTRARY TO his own expectations, Tony McCoy was yesterday able gently to extract the best out of the reluctant hurdler Bamapour, the Martin Pipe-trained horse responsible for the champion jockey's 14-day suspension for misuse of the whip.

Punters, who perhaps had taken note of McCoy's opinion prior to yesterday's race at Taunton that success on Bamapour would be hindered by the more restrained whip action he must now employ, allowed the eight-year-old to start as the 10-1 outsider of the six-runner field.

However, he battled on strongly after leading three flights out to get the better of Papua by a couple of lengths, with McCoy resorting to his stick only a handful of times.

"He felt a bit sweeter and fresher today as the trainer's a superb genius," McCoy said, "but I rode him exactly the same way as I ride any other horse and that's to win as that's my job.

"And if Mr Pipe keeps on improving him in this way, he'll end up being favourite for the Champion Hurdle," he added, tongue lodged in cheek.

"I don't want to look back. As far as I'm concerned Fontwell [scene of the whipping misdemeanour] is over. I'm not going to change the way I ride as I'm out there to win but I'll have to do that within the rules.

"The horse ran sweeter today but I kicked on him a fair way out as I did at Fontwell, the only difference being he kept running for me today."

Some will argue that this success proves that McCoy can achieve results with recalcitrant horses without resorting to the full force of his armoury. But it also shows that mentally, as well as physically, Bamapour was undamaged by his exertions at Fontwell.

Another significant result at Taunton was the victory of Fourth In Line, who ended a losing run for Venetia Williams. "We've had more beaten favourites than anything else since Teeton Mill won the Hennessy Gold Cup and I was getting a bit worried," Williams said.

Pipe and McCoy have been denied the opportunity to saddle the favourite for tomorrow's Tripleprint Gold Cup as Cyfor Malta has suffered a slight setback, but the same horse does now have the Grand National as a possible target. The British Horseracing Board yesterday sanctioned a change in the rules that will allow six-year-olds- as Cyfor Malta will be next April - to run in the Aintree marathon. Under the previous rules, no horse under the age of seven was permitted to run.

Today's card at Cheltenham has also benefited from a change in race conditions, with several top chasers having been diverted south from tomorrow's Tommy Whittle Chase at Haydock where, bizarrely, they would have had to meet Suny Bay, Britain's top chaser, at disadvantageous weights. Among those switched are Strath Royal, Senor El Betrutti and Cool Dawn, who is aiming to recapture the winning form that brought him the Gold Cup over the track last March.