TONY McCoy was the star of the show for the second day running with victory in the feature race at Aintree as he struck on Don Cossack in the Betfred Melling Chase at Aintree.
While it was in his boss JP McManus’ colours that he won the Aintree Hurdle on Jezki on Thursday, it was for one of that owner’s big rivals in Ireland, Gigginstown House Stud, that he was triumphant.
McCoy stepped into the breach due to retained rider Bryan Cooper being suspended and being free himself when Uxizandre was ruled out of the race.
The Gordon Elliott-trained Don Cossack was making amends for an unlucky run at Cheltenham after winning his first four starts of the campaign, including the John Durkan Memorial Punchestown Chase.
McCoy chose to race Don Cossack prominently behind the pacesetting Cue Card before taking over early in the straight.
The 3-1 joint-favourite was soon away and clear and flew over the final fence to win eased down by 26 lengths. Cue Card ran a creditable race to fill the runner-up spot on his first start since Boxing Day, with Johns Spirit third.
There was drama early on when Balder Succes came down at the third, giving Wayne Hutchinson a bang on his shoulder, and last year’s Queen Mother Champion Chase hero Sire De Grugy fell at the sixth.
Like Hutchinson, his rider Josh Moore was stood down for the day.
McCoy said: “I got a good ride off him. I owe JP’s son Kieran a favour as we knew early in the week Uxizandre wouldn’t be running and I think Kieran sorted it with Eddie and Michael [O’Leary] – even though we have a healthy competition with them in England and Ireland, it’s nice of them to put me up in a Grade One given I haven’t got long left. Fair play to Gordon, he had him in great shape.
“I gave him a squeeze down the back, as it worked out he’s better with the bit high in his mouth. Gordon told me he had a high cruising speed and not to be frightened to be positive and saying that was like a red rag to a bull.”
Elliott said: “I’m delighted, he’s always been the apple of my eye and AP gave him a great ride.
“It’s unfortunate Bryan Cooper got suspended at Cheltenham, as he’s a big part of the team, but I’ve got brilliant staff and owners.
“I was delighted when he sent him on down the back straight as we know he stays and we didn’t want a sprint. It’s great to give AP a Grade One. We always thought he was good.”
Eddie O’Leary, racing manager to Gigginstown, said: “He was unlucky at Cheltenham. Things conspired against him, but that’s the real Don Cossack.
“He’s a Gold Cup horse. He stays and he’s got class. We’ve also got Don Poli and just hope one of them will be lucky enough to be around next year. We’re pessimistic by nature. We’ve got to get them back sound.”
Racebets introduced Don Cossack into the betting at 16-1 on the 2016 Gold Cup.
Colin Tizzard was delighted with Cue Card and is thinking of running at the Punchestown Festival.
“He’s absolutely fine. He beat the rest easy enough, but he didn’t get anywhere near the winner. He was something else,” said Tizzard. He’ll go to Punchestown now.”
Jonjo O’Neill said of Johns Spirit: “He’s a superstar. He always tries. We’ll look at more of these sort of races next season but might be tempted to head again to the Paddy Power as he loves it around Cheltenham.”