McCoy is less than masterly

As Master Minded repelled Somersby by the width of his whiskers after a down-and-dirty scrap in the mud to take the Victor Chandler Chase here at Ascot yesterday, the first reaction of his trainer,Paul Nicholls, was consternation. A win it was for the eight-year-old, his seventh at Grade One level, but the former two-mile champion is associated with imperious wide margins, not desperate, diminishing short-heads.

After talking to the winning rider, Tony McCoy, though, Nicholls breathed more easily. The form of the five-times champion trainer's string has been under scrutiny, even though the man himself is happy that his recent poor strike-rate is merely his usual January dip before the build-up to Cheltenham. But Master Minded, the former two-mile champion and rated a long way clear of any of his rivals yesterday, was supposed to steady the ship. "I was pretty disappointed, no question, that he didn't win more easily and was thinking that maybe we really were in a bit of trouble," said Nicholls. "But the first thing Tony said to me was that even though he'd won, he'd given him a bollocks of a ride, making too much use of him too soon in heavy ground. And that was a relief."

Master Minded travelled comfortably behind the pace for the first half of the contest, jumped level with the leaders at the eighth fence and was in front by the next. From there, McCoy pressed on up the climb from Swinley Bottom and was well clear – and confidently looking behind for dangers – as he swung round the home turn with two to jump.

But in the straight, the 4-7 favourite began to falter and Somersby, the only one able to keep tabs, started to close the gap. To Master Minded's credit his jumping held together and, despite tiring, a fine leap at the last maintained enough momentum to hold on, just.

"They went a real good gallop early and when he came back on the bridle and went to the front I let him run when I shouldn't have done," admitted McCoy. "I should have just sat and waited and let him fill up more and then fired him up the hill. He did very well to win, but then he's a class act."

It was 20 lengths back to the third, Mad Max, and Somersby's fine effort under Hadden Frost has presented his trainer, Henrietta Knight, with a dilemma. The seven-year-old's Cheltenham target had been the two-mile five-furlong Ryanair Chase, for which he is now second favourite, but Knight admitted the lure of the two-mile championship may prove too strong. "It's the traditional race," she said, "and having won it once [with Edredon Bleu] I'd love to win it again. He's only young and we can always go further another year."

Master Minded, whose talent has been rekindled this term with the aid of surgery to help his breathing, retains his place at the top of the Champion Chase market ahead of Big Zeb, who thwarted his bid for a three-timer last March.

"They can't always run to their very best," added Nicholls. "But come March, when the horses will be in better form, they'll be right there."

Today at Leopardstown, ChampionHurdle second favourite Hurricane Fly runs in the Irish version. But the loss of yesterday's Haydock card to frost meant that unbeaten Peddlers Cross missed his Cheltenham prep and may now lock horns earlier than planned with the reigning champion Binocular, at Sandown next month.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Fabric Inspector

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Fabric Inspector is required to join an awar...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities & Project Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities & Project Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Software Testing Manager

£30000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Experience Coordinator

£17600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum cares for one of the largest...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash