TWENTY-times champion jockey Sir AP McCoy says Cue Card remains the horse to beat in next year’s Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup, steeplechasing’s blue riband contest.
Jump racing’s winning-most rider, who won the Gold Cup on Mr Mulligan (1997) and Synchronised (2012), favours Colin Tizzard’s Betfair Chase winner over stablemate Thistlecrack, the current ante-post favourite. Cue Card was bang in contention in last season’s race when parting company with jockey Paddy Brennan at the third last while Thistlecrack is a first-season novice with just three races to his name over the larger obstacles under Tom Scudamore.
There’s still an outside possibility both horses could meet in the King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day, but McCoy thinks Thistlecrack’s connections would be foolish not to run their horse in the Grade One novice chase on the Kempton undercard.
“I don’t think Thistlecrack deserves to be Gold Cup favourite at this stage, it has to be Cue Card on what they’ve achieved so far,” wrote McCoy on his blog for Leeds-based bookmaker William Hill.
“Thistlecrack could win a Gold Cup, but would I be backing him at the moment? Not a hope in hell. If I was choosing who to ride in the Gold Cup, Thistlecrack has potential while Cue Card is a proven horse.”
McCoy, who won the 2010 Sports Personality of the Year award before picking up the Lifetime Achievement accolade 12 months ago, believes world number one tennis player Andy Murray is “a shoo-in” for this year’s public vote.
However he believes veteran showjumper Nick Skelton, who won gold in Rio at the age of 58, and Olympic cycling champion Jason Kenny will beat Leeds triathlete Alistair Brownlee in the race to be second and third. “Although there are plenty of Olympians and Paralympians to choose from, Nick will have the whole equestrian world behind him and rightly so,” added McCoy.
North Yorkshire’s Brian Hughes, who rode a McCoy-like 31 winners last month, continued his rich vein of form when partnering the aptly-named Thankyou Very Much to victory at Leicester for Middleham’ trainer James Bethell.
Top class hurdler The New One is due to make his novice chase debut at Exeter for trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and jockey Ryan Hatch if the Devon track beats the frost.
If not, the horse holds a back-up entry in tomorrow’s Grade One Racing Post Henry VIII Novices’ Chase at Sandown.
Hughes has also been nominated for jump jockey of the year at the Lesters, the Oscars of racing, which are awarded on December 22.
Malton’s Adam McNamara is in the running for apprentice rider of the year while his mentor Tom O’Ryan, the former jockey and racing writer who died from cancer in August, has been shortlisted posthumously for two awards.
Meanwhile, Graham Lee is in the running for Flat ride of the year.