AP McCoy has thrilled and delighted racegoers for the last 20 years, and he did not fail to deliver again on his last day riding at Ascot at the Prince's Countrysode Fund Raceday before his soon-to-be-final announcement of his retirement.
His three rides resulted in a third, a pull up and a win – and the victory was achieved in typical AP McCoy style. He was seemingly beaten all the way up the straight, but when Richard Johnson’s mount started to falter going into the last, McCoy saw just a glimmer of an opportunity ahead. It was all that was needed. As John Hunt said in commentary “AP is throwing the kitchen sink at Un Ace” – and unsurprisingly Un Ace wore down the gap and got up to win on the line by a short head.
It was a fitting result and was aptly followed by the pre-arranged presentation by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall on Ascot’s behalf to the 19-time (soon to be 20-time) champion National Hunt jockey of a picture of him winning at Ascot on Deano’s Beeno.
Earlier on the card, Puffin Billy looked a confident and happy horse, jumping fences with aplomb in the Troy Asset Management & Brown Advisory Novice Chase, and putting his fall here earlier in the season well behind him. It was a thrilling race, his defeated rival Thomas Crapper forcing Puffin Billy to pull out all the stops.
“Billy didn’t put a foot out of place,” said trainer Oliver Sherwood. “We took him along slowly after that fall, but he was slick and quick today. Weather will dictate if we run him again or not this season.”
The day got off to a great start with Special Agent winning the opener for Her Majesty The Queen. Although bred to be a Flat performer, trainer Nicky Henderson believes the six-year-old has a future jumping fences and he will divert the six-year-old to the bigger obstacles from the outset next season.
Lil Rockerfeller took the juvenile hurdle, getting every yard of the trip with the soft ground appearing to be ideal, while Creevytennant enjoyed being reunited with jockey Conor Shoemark – the claimer has now ridden the horse to five of his six victories.
Progressive young rider, 3lb claimer and 17-year-old Sean Bowen was seen to good effect in the Tindle Newspapers Conditional Jockeys Handicap Hurdle on Morito Du Berlais. The victory took him to level pegging in the conditional jockeys’ tile with Nico De Boinville, and it is a battle that looks as though it will go to the wire.
Another young jockey, this time the leading amateur Harry Banister, rounded the day off with victory in the Sir Ray Tindle Hunters’ Chase on the 12-year-old Calgary Bay, who at his best was BHA rated 158. A Grade 2 winner in 2009, he is back in training with Henrietta Knight and the horse is clearly her pride and joy.
“He jumped for fun and he showed them!” smiled Knight in between her tears of pride. Knight was last in the Ascot winners’ enclosure in 2011-12; it was lovely to see her back there again.