RACING AHEAD with Tony McCormick

Racing Ahead

Racing Ahead

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Racing pundit Tony McCormick from www.irishbigracetrends.com beforetheoff.com and racing radio station racingfm.com looks back at the weekend’s action in Great Britain and Ireland, while the countdown to Cheltenham continues with your Festival Notebook.

Tony McCoy’s retirement announcement came after the champs win on Mr Mole in the Betfair Price Rush Chase at Newbury on Saturday. The media frenzy that followed overshadowed Queen Mother Champion Chaser Sire De Grugy’s return to the track, with the nine year old careless at some of his obstacles, eventually unseating jockey Jamie Moore.

The dismal performance of the current champion and Sprinter Sacre failing to dazzle on his own return, means this year’s renewal has been thrown wide open.

On Sunday, Leopardstown was fortunate to have McCoy ride a winner earlier in the afternoon on Sort It Out in a lowly handicap hurdle but on Carlingford Lough, in the Grade One Hennessey Gold Cup, the capacity crowd were treated to a McCoy ‘special’.

Last year’s Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Lord Windermere led the field rounding the home turn but was headed by Foxrock jumping the final fence. Carlingford Lough, which had raced behind the leaders, was just fourth rounding the home turn and landed third over the last. However the gelding stayed on powerfully on the run-in under a typically determined McCoy to edge past Foxrock close home, for a three parts of a length win.

Cheltenham Festival Notebook: Jonjo O’Neill has conceded that Taquin Du Seuil did not stay three miles at Newbury on Saturday and that he is a likely runner in the Ryanair Chase at the Cheltenham Festival rather than the Gold Cup.

Winner of the JLT Novices’ Chase at the Festival last year, O’Neill had hoped he would develop into a contender for the blue riband this season.

Paul Nicholls’s grey Al Ferof will miss Cheltenham. The 10-year-old was prominent in the betting for the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Ryanair Chase but won’t be going for either contest due to a partially entrapped epiglottis that requires minor corrective surgery.

More Of That is running out of time for a prep run ahead of Cheltenham after he was an absentee from the entries for the Betfred “Still Treble Odds On Lucky 15s” Hurdle at Haydock on Saturday. Last year’s Ladbrokes World Hurdle hero is reported to be not quite ready to perform on what is likely to be testing ground at the Merseyside track in the Grade Two contest.

Trainer Gordon Elliott is happy to allow his improving chaser Clarcam another crack at Cheltenham Festival banker Un De Sceaux in the Racing Post Arkle Novice Chase. The Willie Mullins trained 4-7 festival favourite beat Clarcam by 15 lengths in the Grade One Arkle Novices’ Chase at Leopardstown on 25 January.