Cheltenham Festival: AP McCoy makes late switch of mounts for Gold Cup

The champion jockey was down to ride JP McManus' horse Sunnyhill Boy but will now ride Sir Des Champs

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The Independent Online

AP McCoy is now set to ride leading challenger Sir Des Champs in today’s Cheltenham Gold cup after making a late switch of mounts.

The champion jockey was down to ride JP McManus' horse Sunnyhill Boy, trained by Jonjo O'Neill, but the horse was withdrawn from the running this morning as a result of "an unsatisfactory scope", an indication that the horse was not 100% fit.

It is the second withdrawal in the last 24 hours after Bog Warrior also earlier pulled out of the race.

The Nicky Henderson-trained horse, Bobs Worth, winner of the Hennessy Gold Cup, is the early favourite for the 15:20 race, although McCoy's switch is sure to see interest increase in Sir Des Champs, who is just behind Bobs Worth in the betting and a two-time Cheltenham Festival winner.

The withdrawal of Bog Warrior is fortuitous for both McCoy, winner of last year's race on Synchronised, and trainer Willie Mullins who had been left without a jockey after Davy Russell's punctured lung ruled him out.

Mullins, who won three races on the opening day of the festival is hoping for his first Gold Cup win and the first Irish-trained winner since 2006.

Long Run a winner in 2011 is also in the field, ridden by amateur jockey Sam Waley-Cohen and the young Paul Nicholls-trained horse Silviniaco Conti is also considered to be in the running.

Henderson, who is the all-time leading festival trainer, goes into today's meeting in fine form having already won the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Wednesday and his horse Bobs Worth already has four Cheltenham wins under his belt.

Henderson said: "He missed a prep race, but the ground was so bad at the time - we've had soft ground since October.

"He's a good horse. He's proved he's a Grade One winner as a novice, but not in this league.

"Then again, it's a very open year."