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?
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: Weekend Factory Operatives

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This high quality thread manufacturer is curr...

Recruitment Genius: FP&A Analyst

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A market leading acquirer and m...

Recruitment Genius: Electricians

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fully qualified electricians re...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service and Business Support Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: By developing intimate relationships with inte...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific