St Leger Meeting: McCoy excited at Doncaster duel with Murtagh

TONY MCCOY is relishing the prospect of lining up alongside Johnny Murtagh in the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Classified Stakes at Doncaster on Wednesday.

Tony McCoy. Picture: David Davies/PA
Tony McCoy. Picture: David Davies/PA

The recently-retired 20-times champion jockey is the headline name among 16 former weighing-room stars returning to the saddle in aid of the Northern Racing College and the Injured Jockeys Fund’s Jack Berry House in the main event on the opening day of the St Leger Festival.

McCoy will ride the Brendan Powell-trained Gannicus in the straight-mile contest, who has been cut to 5-1 favourite from 6-1 by William Hill, with Murtagh, a five-time champion jockey on the Flat in Ireland, getting the leg up on Commissar for trainer Ian Williams.

McCoy said: “I’m looking forward to the Legends race at Doncaster. Johnny Murtagh said he hopes it’s me and him in the final furlong because he wants to find out how good I really am.

“Johnny had a little spell jumping a few years back and probably realised, not that he wasn’t good enough, but maybe he wasn’t tough enough.

“Maybe he couldn’t compete with the jump lads so he went back to Flat racing which he found a little easier. Hopefully it’ll come down to strength in the end and I’ll be looking back to see where Johnny is!

“Johnny was a world-class jockey so it will be a real test of how good I am. It might just prove that I rode for very good trainers and had an agent like Dave Roberts who put me on the best horse every day.

“If it’s Luke Harvey who comes and beats Johnny and I, it just proves that anyone could probably do it!”

Speaking in his William Hill blog, McCoy said: “I’ve been riding out every morning and a couple of weeks ago I realised how unfit I’ve got in such a short space of time, or rather, how fit I was when I was riding. I’ve been trying to get in shape again and I might have to see if my breeches still fit me!

“I’m looking forward to it and Jack Berry House is a great cause. The least I can do for Jack Berry is ride in this race.

“But it’s all about winning, the bragging rights, getting one over on the others and giving Johnny Murtagh a pat on the back and saying ‘unlucky bud’.

“The temptation to come back to riding is gone, though. I was a jockey once upon a time, but not anymore.”

Powell is thrilled to have McCoy on his side one more time aboard a horse who has won twice at Brighton this year.

“It will probably be AP’s last ever ride. He came down and had a sit on the horse this morning and I think it’s a good job it’s his last ride as he’s lost it already - he’s definitely put on a bit of weight,” Powell joked.

“I knew he’d ridden a few winners for us, but I was surprised when I read in the newspaper he’d ridden 45 winners for the yard since we started. It’s great to have him on our side.

“The horse is fit and well. He’s been winning small-field races, but he’s in good form and he seems quite adaptable ground-wise, so he has an obvious chance.

“We’re looking forward to the day, hopefully everyone enjoys it and they raise plenty of money for the charities. That’s what it’s all about.

“I don’t think we’ll get much of a price about him with AP on board!”

Murtagh, now training in his homeland, is also looking forward to the day.

“I’m riding out every day and I’m fit and ready to go,” he told At The Races.

“It’s a great occasion and I’m really excited about it. I know a lot of the lads and I’m looking forward to seeing Kevin Darley, Michael Hills and Dale (Gibson).

“When you retire you do miss the weighing room, so it’s going to be good fun to go back in there and meet all the old faces.

“Then we have Luke Harvey, Jim Culloty and, of course, AP McCoy, so I can’t wait.

“I haven’t spoken to Ian (Williams) yet, but he looks like he has a good chance. He’s been placed a few times and I hope a straight mile at Doncaster will suit him.

“Doncaster was always a lucky place for me, I loved riding there and I can’t wait to get back.

“Jockeys are very competitive. I know everyone is saying it’s a bit of fun and for a great cause, but each and every one of them will be trying their best to win.

“When we put our helmets on and walk into the parade ring, we’ll all think we’re 21 again!”

Darley, another former champion, rides Karl Burke’s Fidelma Moon.

Other notable participants include At The Races presenter Harvey (Big Storm Coming), Gay Kelleway (Swordbearer) and Culloty, rider of triple Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Best Mate (Wordismybond).