Another day, another race to win for McCoy


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The Independent Online

After the sweet fruit-packed jam of a Cheltenham Gold Cup win, it was back to bread and butter yesterday for the human heroes, at least, of the hour. Of those involved on Friday, the horse, Synchronised, had by far the easiest time; after an hour or so of pats and adulation at Jackdaws Castle stables during the morning, he went off to mooch round his paddock and relax until teatime.

His rider and trainer, though, had the day job to get on with, despite celebrations that had demanded just as much stamina and endurance as shown by Synchronised. And though neither the venue nor the reward could match Cheltenham, it proved to be business as usual for Tony McCoy, Jonjo O'Neill and their boss, the owner JP McManus.

At little Ffos Las in Carmarthenshire, McCoy shrugged off his confessed two-and-three-quarter hours' sleep to urge Master Milan home in the Guinness St Patrick's Day Chase, worth £3,898.80, with every bit as committed a ride as he gave to Synchronised to take the Gold Cup's £284,750 first prize.

The Ulsterman's never-say-die performance to take chasing's blue riband contest summed up all the strength and tunnel-vision attitude that will bring him a 17th jockeys' title at the end of the season in April.

But yesterday morning he was still in awe of the resolve of the equine half of the partnership, another individual who seemed more hewn than born. "Look at him," he said of the slight bay gelding posing for photographers, "he doesn't look like a Gold Cup horse, or hardly even a chaser. He doesn't ride like a chaser either; no great long raking stride, no flamboyance or surges of power.

"Going down to a fence on him you know that getting over is going to be strictly a-to-b stuff with him. He's got his own way of doing it and you have to let him get on with it. But what he lacks in size and scope, he makes up for with his heart. He has a greater will to win than any horse I've sat on."

Synchronised holds an entry in the Grand National, but whether he will go for the ambitious double remains to be decided. "He seems fine," said O'Neill, "and he ate up last night when he got home. But we'll see how he is over the next few days before we decide anything about the National."

The white-faced nine-year-old was a first Gold Cup winner as a trainer for O'Neill, who won the race twice as a jockey on Alverton and Dawn Run and has joined Fred Winter, one of the legends of the game, as one to have scored in both spheres.

"It's just been magic," he said, "and you can see how much it means to the team here, everyone is walking on air this morning. Synchronised wasn't a well horse at all after he won in Ireland in December and everyone worked so hard to get him ready for the Gold Cup. But it's great to match a man like Fred Winter, and tick those little statistical boxes, like I did with Dawn Run. She's still the only horse to win a Champion Hurdle and a Gold Cup." Another statistic: Synchronised's sire, the late Sadler's Wells, is now the only stallion with winners of both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Derby on his CV.

Two years ago McCoy and O'Neill combined to give the Irish billionaire McManus his first Grand National, with Don't Push It, and have done it again in jump racing's other great prize.

Synchronised gave McCoy his second Gold Cup, after Mr Mulligan in 1997 and the 15 years between victories has made the second the sweeter. "I was 22 the first time," he said, "and back then I probably thought it was easy. But as time goes on you realise just how difficult it is to win these top races and, no matter who you are, you've no divine right to win them."