When the news filtered through at Thurles on Thursday that Tony McCoy had ridden the 4000th winner of his amazing career there were some nostalgic scenes.
Groups of racegoers gathered at various points throughout the enclosure with each recalling their favourite of the great man who rode his first winner at the venue twenty one years ago on the Jim Bolger trained Legal Steps.
A lot of water has flown under the bridge since that and those present had little knowledge that they were watching history in the making as McCoy has broken every conceivable record along the way to become the most famous national hunt rider ever to throw his leg across a horse.
Noble Prince a horse on which McCoy won the Jewson at Cheltenham two years previously also chose the day to return to his best form to land the featured two mile and six Listed John Meagher memorial Chase under the expert guidance of Ruby Walsh. Although he failed to achieve anything like that standard since there was a good deal of confidence that the son of Montjeu was ready to put some of his troubles behind him. The vibes proved correct as Noble Player was settled off the pace but arrived with a sustained challenge in the straight and in spite of being untidy at the second last fence finished strongly to defeat the warm favourite Realt Dubh by three and a quarter lengths. In his post race remarks winning trainer Paul Nolan revealed that he was blaming himself for the happenings 0f last season as his charge had cracks in his feet and instead of letting off the horse he kept him on the go with the help of his farrier, The condition also affected the horse’s jumping and he was not finishing out his races.
Nolan has no immediate plans for Noble Prince and will await the handicappers verdict on the race before deciding where to go next.
Nineteen year old Kevin Sexton is proving to be the find of the current jumping season and he continued his climb up the ladder by recording a double courtesy of Musawama and Catimini. The Azamour gelding Musawama set the ball rolling with an impressive success in the two mile and two handicap chase for claiming jockeys. Easy to back the five year old set off in front and never saw another rival as he sauntered home fourteen lengths clear of Drumlister with Moncherie a further sixteen lengths back in third place. This was the first racecourse victory for the former jockey Danny Howard who is based in County Clare. Howard told me that he has five or six riding out and does most of his work on the beach at Miltown Malbay. A winner on the level for the John Gosden stable Musawama has also scored over hurdles but according to Howard his true vocation is jumping fences and the trainer will be on the lookout for a similar type contest in spite of the fact that his charge is likely to get a hefty rise in the weights.
Sexton completed his brace Catimini justified plenty of stable confidence to land the two mile mares maiden hurdle at the expense of the favourite Diyala. The latter attempted to make every post a winning one but her hurdling was very erratic and had nothing left when Sexton produced Catimini between the final two flights. Although bumped by Diyala in the air over the second last Catimini took it all in her stride and ran out a comfortable five and a half length winner. Trained by Sean Byrne who attended the meeting on crutches due to having undergone knee surgery the winner was a Wexford bumper winner last December but had to be withdrawn at Limerick on her hurdling debut as she was kicked at the start but recovered to finish second at Galway a couple of weeks ago. According to Byrne the mare is well related, she has a preference for soft ground and a step up in trip would not trouble her greatly.
Racing opened with a workmanlike success for Gentleman Duke in the beginners chase over two miles under a polished ride by David Casey. Already a flat and hurdle race winner the five year old had shown plenty of promise over fences at both Listowel and Tramore, Casey always had him close to the pace as Ruby Walsh set out to make the running on the favourite Raise Hell. Turning to face the judge there was precious little between the pair with the Willie Austin runner Blazing Sonnet right on their heels. Casey was the happier of the jockeys between the final two fences and when he asked his mount for his effort Gentleman Duke responded well to take the money by two and a quarter lengths from the favourite with Blazing Sonnet just by neck further away in third place. Winning handler Arthur Moore told me that He expect Gentleman Duke to make into a nice handicap chaser, he is a good ground animal and two miles is his trip so we will not see much of him during the winter months.
Dessie Hughes told all and sundry that Wrath Of Titans will shed his maiden tag over hurdles before Christmas after the son of Oscar captured the concluding bumper after a good scrap with Kayf Blanco.
A close second in the Land Rover bumper Wrath Of Titans was backed almost to the exclusion of everything else the Oscar gelding showed that he relishes a battle when the gun is put to his head and just about did enough to take the money by half a length.