Greatness rewarded – and it is the real McCoy

When Kauto Star was preserved from further risk you could sense the sport’s sigh of relief

Cheltenham

In all its rich history, there can never have been another Gold Cup where the applause for a horse that could not complete even half the course nearly matched that for the winner. But do not be deceived that Kauto Star's dignified exit, or the inability of his great rival to take advantage, represented any kind of anticlimax. The stage had been set for greatness and the jockey on Synchronised responded with the riding equivalent of Olivier playing Lear.

If you were obliged to condense into one race the bewildering career of Tony McCoy – so that future generations could understand how a man followed by an ambulance every day he goes to work might extend an unbroken reign as champion jockey to 16 seasons – you could now dispense with over 3,000 other winners. Here, in the evening of his career, was something to remember him by.

Among all the great horsemen to have tested themselves in this crucible, would any other have got Synchronised home in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup? You have to doubt it.

His mount was struggling sooner, and more obviously, than Kauto Star. Yet McCoy was driven not just by the same epic perseverance he brings to Plumpton on a wet Monday, but by an answering generosity of spirit. It grieves him how rarely he has had the chance to claim the sport's greatest prizes for his cherished patrons, Jonjo O'Neill and J P McManus. A couple of years ago they finally, famously, combined to win a Grand National – and the faintest possibility of some equivalent elixir yesterday was enough to introduce Synchronised to an unfamiliar margin of courage and stamina.

It would be as fatuous to compare McCoy's overall merit with previous paragons as it is to compare Kauto Star with Arkle. Both, however, share a competitive longevity that unmistakably infected a grey afternoon with intimations of valediction. The atmosphere in the packed precincts was tense, rather than excited. There was a nervous quality to the cheering prompted by Kauto Star even as he strolled around the parade ring. When he lost a prominent early position, and Ruby Walsh quickly decided to preserve him from any further risk, his prudence was saluted with relieved applause from the stands. After a challenging week, you could almost sense the sport taking a communal sigh of relief. Everyone could now relax and enjoy the rest of the race.

Not least after the morning withdrawal of Quel Esprit, most imagined that Long Run would now exploit his adversary's defection – and they would not be discouraged in that assumption even by a couple of his usual blunders. Sam Waley-Cohen had the defending champion in the perfect position, tracking Midnight Chase on the inside and, though briefly cornered on the home turn, Long Run had all the opportunity he should need to cut down The Giant Bolster – a 50-1 shot, running the race of his life for the tiny local stable of David Bridgwater.

The Giant Bolster had led approaching two out, and his surge soon broke Burton Port and Time For Rupert. Waley-Cohen was still there with every chance at the last, but it gradually became clear that he was not going to get past Tom Scudamore. One of the great Gold Cup shocks seemed imminent. But what happened next brought things full circle. For the way Synchronised tore off his gloves on the hill was reminiscent of the iconic Dawn Run, ridden by O'Neill, in 1986. And as Synchronised reached the limit of his genetic resources, he summoned chromosomes inherited from Mayasta – McCoy's first ever ride in the green and gold hoops of McManus, and now the dam of a Gold Cup winner. Between what he found within, and the man on his back, Synchronised raged up the hill to win by just over two lengths, with The Giant Bolster deservedly holding second by three-quarters of a length. It was another five back to Burton Port, with Time For Rupert fifth.

McCoy has long protested that O'Neill has far more talent than the quality of his horses has tended to allow. Even before yesterday, his runners this week – from two artfully rejuvenated handicap winners to the remarkable Alberta's Run, just collared in his quest for a Ryanair Chase hat-trick – confirmed him one of the modern masters of a Festival preparation. Eleven years ago, McManus lured O'Neill from Cumbria to train a few miles from here, at Jackdaws Castle. With a gentle touch, complemented by the ferrous willpower that helped him beat cancer just months after Dawn Run's success, O'Neill has now joined the select group to have both ridden and trained a Gold Cup winner.

Perversely, for all his unprecedented achievement, McCoy has himself had to be reconciled with the reality that his great friend and rival, Ruby Walsh, will always have a better book of rides at the Festival. Now 37, he has had to wait 15 years to add a second Gold Cup to the one he won on Mr Mulligan.

But then consider the man who trained that horse, Noel Chance – all but forgotten, despite winning the race a second time with Looks Like Trouble in 2000. Then there is Bridgwater, who trains just a dozen horses and would normally drive the horse lorry to the races himself; or the Waley-Cohen family, who do not want for resources, but have long since discovered – the hardest way of all, in the loss to cancer of Sam's brother Tom – how to place this disappointment in due perspective.

For all its heartbreak, the sport holds these different people in the same thrall. And, as such, they will all recognise the example of Synchronised, and his rider.

"He doesn't look a chaser," McCoy noted of his partner. "But more than stature, class and physique, he is all heart and spirit – and that's what you need more than anything. He never knows when he is beaten."

Gold Cup Result

3.20: (3m 2f 110yds betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup chase )

1. Synchronised A P McCoy 8-1

2. The Giant Bolster T Scudamore 50-1

3 Long Run Mr S Waley-Cohen 7-4 fav

Also ran: 3-1 Kauto Star (pulled up); 8-1 Burton Port (4th); 8-1 Weird Al (pulled up); 12-1 Midnight Chase; 20-1 Diamond Harry (pulled up); 25-1 What A Friend (fell); 33-1 Time For Rupert (5th); 66-1 Knockara Beau (6th); 100-1 Carruthers; 100-1 China Rock; 100-1 The Midnight Club.

14 ran. 21/4, 3/4, 5, 11/2, 10. (Jonjo O'Neill, Cheltenham).

Tote: win £8.00; places £1.80, £14.00, £1.30. Exacta: £707.80. CSF: £327.95. Trifecta: £6,358.40. NR: Quel Esprit

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit