Racing: Unreal McCoy

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The Independent Online
Horses for courses is an old adage that sometimes works, and the Ascot air certainly seems to agree with the steeplechasers Go Ballistic and Storm Alert. The pair, already with four victories between them on the track this year, returned here yesterday to make it six.

On Go Ballistic's previous winning appearance, back at the start of November, his trainer John O'Shea nominated the Betterware Cup Handicap Chase as the source of his Christmas spending money, and his prediction came true as the seven-year-old battled to the line a length and three-quarters ahead of last year's winner Unguided Missile.

It was the biggest win of O'Shea's career and a welcome boost for his Westbury-on- Severn yard, which houses just 25 horses. The Co Carlow-born Irishman said: "It's not so easy to persuade owners to send horses to a small trainer, and the temptation is to take just any horse, because you need the fees. But I made a policy decision that no matter how hard up I was I would not accept horses that did not show ability. It's a waste of money for owners and time for me. The only way to attract good horses is to have good horses in training. They are the ones that will bring results."

Sheila Lockhart's Go Ballistic has been a fine advertisement for O'Shea's capabilities, and yesterday Tony McCoy, riding the gelding for the first time, produced him to perfection to tackle Unguided Missile on the home turn and outgun him over the last two fences. But, admirably though the winner did his job, the honours undoubtedly went to the runner-up, who was conceding 25lb to his rival.

Mick Fitzgerald, Go Ballistic's usual rider, was claimed for another runner in yesterday's race, and O'Shea admitted: "I was concerned about the change of jockey, because the horse takes a bit of knowing. But you can't have much better than the champion."

Go Ballistic's earnings at Ascot are now in the region of pounds 40,000, but he has a way to go before he matches Storm Alert's record. Yesterday's surprise half-length defeat of the rising two-mile star Ask Tom in the Frogmore Handicap Chase brought his winnings total to pounds 65,000 from five races, and his trainer, David Nicholson, said: "He just loves the place, and he'll be back for the Victor Chandler [Handicap Chase] in January."

In that contest he is likely to clash again with Ask Tom, whose trainer Tom Tate was not entirely happy with the waiting tactics employed by Russ Garrity.

Carl Llewellyn, however, rode an excellent tactical race to take the day's Grade One contest, the Long Walk Hurdle, on Ocean Hawk, setting a strong gallop to take the sting from his rivals on the first circuit before giving his mount a breather down the back straight. Ocean Hawk had plenty in reserve when tackled by Pleasure Shared before the turn for home and found his second wind in the straight to come four lengths clear of Trainglot and stake his claim for the Stayers' Hurdle at Cheltenham. The race was the first leg of a double for Llewellyn and the trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies, completed by Mistinguett in the last.

The easiest winner of the day, and possibly the year, was Make A Stand, another for McCoy, in the Kennel Gate Novices' Hurdle. The five-year-old won by five lengths that could have been a distance had he not been eased almost to a trot at the line.