Tony McCoy’s Irish Hennessy victory aboard Carlingford Lough sparked emotional scenes at Leopardstown last month, but there will barely be a dry eye in the house if the duo can repeat the trick in the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup.
The win came just 24 hours after McCoy had announced his plan to quit the saddle at the end of the current campaign and Carlingford Lough now has the honour of providing the 19-time champion jockey with his final mount in the Festival feature.
McCoy scored a first blue-riband success aboard Mr Mulligan in 1997 before adding to his tally with Synchronised in 2012, a win he holds dear to his heart as it was a first Gold Cup for his boss JP McManus.
McCoy will again be sporting the famous green and gold silks as he bids adieu to the Gold Cup arena.
Trainer John Kiely is hoping Carlingford Lough can provide the perfect send-off.
He said: “It was a wonderful day (at Leopardstown). Whether he’s as good as the English horses, we’ll have to wait and see.
“I’m happy with him, he came out of the race well and he has his work done.
“I ride him all the time at home. You couldn’t have a nicer horse to ride, that’s why I ride him.
“Anybody in the game would like to be in this position, Fortunately, I am, having horses for JP. You need good horses to take you there.
“The first day he won at Roscommon he did it easily and (although) it took him a while to get the message, he kept on improving all through his career.
“He was always easy to keep right. He just had one or two little niggly problems along the way. We just had to have patience with him.
“He seems to like Galway, but when he’s right I think he can handle anything.
“You wouldn’t have thought he’d have come this far, but his runs in the novices races last year were all nice.
“This year we missed out the early part of it for a couple of small reasons and he was probably a little bit short for his first run at Christmas. He came on from then.
“Last year (in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham) he just didn’t get the message quick enough. He dwelt a bit at the start and jumped very deliberately, which left him with a bit to do.
“When he got travelling right he seemed to finish well.”
While McCoy is happy to ride Carlingford Lough, he has a healthy respect for Holywell, whom he knows particularly well as an inmate of Jonjo O’Neill’s yard and he was aboard the eight-year-old when he won his prep race at Kelso.
He said: “I think Holywell has a very good chance if the ground dries out a bit.
“He really improves this time of year and the most important thing is to have good Cheltenham form.
“That is a big plus for any horse and he has won there the last two years.
“He won well at Kelso and it was the first time he felt like the horse he is.
“He’s had little niggling injuries, but the horse is physically better this time.
“If I was not riding Carlingford Lough I would rather ride Holywell than any other horse.”
O’Neill believes the ground, as well as the application of blinkers, are the key to Holywell.
He said: “He needs really good ground, mainly because of his jumping as he’s not that big.
“When the ground is a bit soft, it is a bit hard for him.
“When you put the blinkers on him, he seems a different horse, especially on good ground.
“He won at Kelso and did what he had to do. It was nice to see him win like that.
“The ground was a bit softer than we wanted, but AP was happy with him and he’s come out of the race really well.”
Paul Nicholls is responsible for the favourite Silviniaco Conti, who bids to make it third time lucky in the race, after falling two years ago and finishing fourth after fading up the hill last year.
However, his emphatic victory in the King George at Kempton on Boxing Day has put him firmly in the Gold Cup frame again.
Nicholls said: “He made the running and galloped on really strongly.
“Something he was not doing last year was finishing his races.
“We found out after he won at Aintree last year he was suffering badly with gastric ulcers and we are on top of that now.
“The cheekpieces have also got him jumping sharper.
“Hopefully, this year he is much better and on form he is the one they have to beat and he deserves to be favourite. You have to stay to win a King George.
“Look at See More Business, he won a Gold Cup and Kauto was the same.
“I’ve got no doubt about him staying whatsoever.”
Nicholls also fields Sam Winner, who beat Tuesday’s Festival winner The Druids Nephew at Cheltenham earlier in the season and was last seen coming to finish third in the Lexus Chase behind the reopposing Road To Riches.
The trainer said: “If you look at his form around Cheltenham he is not totally without a chance of finishing in the frame and he is a lively outsider.”