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Cheltenham Morning Line: Mullins confirms AP McCoy for Sir Des Champs in Cheltenham Gold Cup

by Sean Goff | March 15, 2013
JP McManus, Tony McCoy and Jonjo O'Neill

GOING FOR GOLD:  AP McCoy in line for back-to-back Gold Cups (Getty Images)

Sean Goff | Cheltenham 2013

Champion jockey AP McCoy has been confirmed for Sir Des Champs in the Cheltenham Gold Cup (3.20) today after regular pilot Davy Russell was ruled out through injury.

The Iron Man of jumps racing has yet to ride a winner at this year’s festival but Johnjo O’Neill’s Sunyhillboy was withdrawn from the Blue Riband field with a dirty scope – paving the way for McCoy to ride the Willie Mullins-trained second favourite.

McCoy won the Gold Cup last year on Synchronised for his guv’nor JP McManus and trainer Johnjo O’Neill but was earlier unsure about possible back-to-back successes in the Festival feature.

But Mullins – who has had five winners at the Festival so far this week – confirmed the news a short time ago.

Mullins heads into the last day on the verge of the trainer’s championship with five winners including wins in the Supreme Novices Hurdle with Champagne Fever, a Champion Hurdle regained by Hurricane Fly and his eighth win in the Champion Bumper with Briar Hill.

But there is one big race missing from his outstanding CV and that’s the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Mullins saddles the second favourite  Sir Des Champs for Friday’s blue riband in a race where  Paddy Power is refunding all ante-post bets on last year’s Grand National runner-up Sunnyhillboy as a justice payout.

The meeting starts with the 17-runner Triumph Hurdle and Dessie Hughes’ Our Conor has been punted into favouritism as the Irish look for their 11th winner of the week. Geraghty and Henderson rely on Rolling Ball while Far West looks to give champion trainer Paul Nicholls his first winner of the week.

The County Hurdle is as tricky as ever with 28 runners going to post. Cotton Mill looks to go one better than his second place behind My Tent or Yours at Newbury and the better the ground the better his chance.

Salsify bids for back-to-back wins in the Foxhunters Chase while David Pipe – after the disappointment of Dynaste and Ballygour yesterday tries – to win the race named after his father, the Martin Pipe Conditional Hurdle. Pipe has thrown enough  darts at this race in the past to qualify for the BDO Tour and Gevrey Chambertin is his sole runner from more than 20 entries.

The Grand Annual is the last of the day and the last of the meeting and Alderwood – who won last year’s County Hurdle – is favourite for his first run in a handicap chase.

Clerk of the course Simon Claisse is forecasting that 4-5mm of rain could hit the Cotswolds before the off time of 3.20pm – turning the ground soft from its current good to soft, soft in places description.

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