When it comes to handicap races at the Festival there isn’t a better jockey to follow than the man they call “champ”.
AP McCoy doesn’t ride many of the big names in top races, thanks to his allegiance with owner JP McManus. But that hasn’t stopped him guiding 11 winners home in 61 handicap races at the greatest show on turf since 2003.
So when the declarations for the first handicap race of the Festival were finally made it was no surprise to see Jonjo O’Neill’s Alfie Sherrin half in price with Ladbrokes once it was revealed that McCoy had taken the booking.
The veteran gelding, a winner of this race in 2012 when it was known by its JLT prefix, is priced at 8/1 to land the now-named Baylis and Harding Handicap Chase. That’s a price that makes him the joint-second favourite behind another O’Neill entry, Holywell, who is 7/1.
However the 18-time champion jockey’s choice to partner the 11-yr-old is striking, given that a run of five races without a win sees him give 17lbs to the top-weighted Cantlow, another JP McManus horse and a McCoy swerve.
A respectable fourth in the two-furlong further Kim Muir at last season’s Festival was followed by just one run this season, another fourth in a Grade 3 handicap at Haydock. That run was without his usual cheek pieces though, and the fact that they return for this run is a positive.
With so little work in his legs it’s obvious he’s been kept fresh for a tilt at this and while there will be doubters over his lack of work, the fact that McCoy has picked him over a number of options to try and win this for the second time is all you need to know.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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