Ruby Walsh, Bryony Frost, Altior and Tiger Roll among the winners at The McCoys in 2019
Saturday, September 28, 2019 - The McCoys, The Jockey Club awards which recognise excellence in Jump Racing, were presented for the third time at Cheltenham Racecourse yesterday evening, Friday, September 27.
In determining winners at The McCoys, performances at all Jockey Club Racecourses that stage Jump racing are taken into consideration for the time period of May 5, 2018 through to April 27, 2019. The Jockey Club Racecourses that stage Jump racing are Aintree, Carlisle, Cheltenham, Exeter, Haydock Park, Huntingdon, Kempton Park, Market Rasen, Sandown Park, Warwick and Wincanton.
The McCoys awarded to the Leading Owner, Leading Trainer, Leading Jockeys (Professional, Conditional and Amateur), plus the Leading Horses (Novice Hurdler, Hurdler, Novice Chaser and Chaser) are judged on the number of wins, with countback on places in the event of a tie.
The remaining winners at The McCoys are determined by a panel of judges and were revealed on September 27 before an audience of 480 in The Centaur at Cheltenham Racecourse.
The panel of judges in 2019 was comprised of Henrietta Knight, trainer of the three-time Cheltenham Gold Cup hero Best Mate, journalist Chris Cook of The Guardian, Cheltenham Racecourse's Head of Racing and Clerk of the Course Simon Claisse and Sir A P McCoy.
With a total of 2,756 wins in Britain and Ireland, a record 59 winners at The Festival™ presented by Magners and two Grand National victories, few have reached the heights of jockey Ruby Walsh, who hung up his saddle on May 1 this year.
Walsh was presented with the award for Outstanding Contribution sponsored by Dodson & Horrell.
On accepting his award, Walsh said: "It is great to be here. I brought the kids with me, the three older girls, and we had a wander around the racecourse today - it was a bit of fun and kind of Cheltenham to let us do it. Cheltenham is a special place, it's like Wembley or Twickenham. It was an incredible place before I ever rode here, and it will still be an incredible place now I have finished riding.
"I was lucky to have the success I had and never thought I would have it. It is a special night here at Cheltenham with A P's name to it and he is on the deciding panel as to who wins what. He carries a fair bit of weight in this game. I missed riding against him when he stopped riding and he sent me a nice message to me tonight. He was so dedicated in what he did and the commitments he was prepared to make. He raised the bar for all of us - he set the standards we had to go and try and achieve. To me, that is more than his 20 championships.
"I enjoyed every day riding for what it was. It is a professional sport and I set out to try and achieve the best I could. That is just the way I was."
Ruby Walsh is presented with his McCoy by Sam Horrell
Another jockey who retired in 2019 is Noel Fehily, who announced his intention to hang up his boots after partnering Eglantine Du Seuil to victory in the G2 National Hunt Breeders Supported by Tattersalls Mares' Novices' Hurdle at The Festival. Fehily enjoyed 1,352 winners in total and was presented with the Judges Choice Award sponsored by WO Lewis.
Fehily said: "It is great just watching back some of the memories I have around here. Any winner you have at Cheltenham is special, whether at The Festival or any other meeting. To win this award is fantastic.
"It made me nostalgic looking back. When I rode my last winner at The Festival, I had my family here and it was a special day.
"I had made up quietly in my mind that if I rode a winner at The Festival then I would announce my retirement, so when it happened, I had to do it. It was the right thing to do and the right time to do it. It was an overwhelming day. I had spoken to my agent Chris Broad and my wife and family beforehand and it was the perfect ending.
"It also worked out well riding my final winner at Newbury (on March 23). I lived in Lambourn for 15 or 16 years and Newbury was my local course. It was a good meeting and I had some nice rides. I won on my last ride so I couldn't have written the script.
"I have had a great career and it was the perfect ending. It is very difficult to say what my best race was, I enjoyed every one of them so much. Rock On Ruby (winner of the 2012 Champion Hurdle) was special as I rode him all the time and schooled him. Buveur D'Air - I was associated with him in his bumper and novice hurdle days and then won the Champion Hurdle (2017) on him, while I was also associated with Silviniaco Conti in his younger days as well as later on."
Noel Fehily with Philip Lewis and Henrietta Knight
If one horse and jockey combination caught the public imagination in the 2018/19 season, it was surely Frodon and Bryony Frost, who won four of their five starts together, culminating with a memorable success in the G1 Ryanair Chase at The Festival. Frost picked up the McCoy for Leading Conditional Jockey sponsored by Hai Air while Frodon took the McCoy for Leading Chaser sponsored by Harrison Clark Rickerbys Solicitors.
Frost said: "It is mad to think that when I walked into Ditcheat I was nobody and didn't really know what I was doing. Paul (Nicholls) gave me a massive opportunity. For the owners to let me ride their horses and for Clifford (Baker) to teach me and have the support of my family over the last two seasons has been amazing - it is unbelievable I am up here tonight.
"I managed to drag my parents away from Devonand get them here this evening - it was quite difficult, but they have come! I managed to have all my family here when Frodon won at The Festival. That doesn't normally happen and made the day even more special, it was like a fairy tale would be written.
"Coming here tonight brings back all the winners you have had here. Cheltenham is the stage where the biggest battles happen and where the bravest horses win. To say you have had victories here is mega and gives you goose bumps on your skin. I get goose bumps just when I think back about Frodon.
"I can't keep still at this time of year. If I was a horse, I would be box walking and having to wear a hood for exercise. The team at Ditcheat are all raring to go and have got some gorgeous young horses as well as the flagbearers. I also have Neil King supporting me now as well as my dad. Hopefully, I can stay clear of hitting the ground and being broken and just keep kicking forward.
"Frodon schooled on Thursday and needless to say he still took the mickey out of me! He was telling me what to do on short or long strides. He is in great order."
Bryony Frost & Nick Hardy
Bryony Frost with Frodon's owner Paul Vogt (centre)
There was also an award for Frodon's trainer Paul Nicholls, who took the McCoy for Leading Trainer Sponsored by Beach Independent Financial Advisors.
Nicholls said: "The McCoys are getting better and better. Everyone is here and it is a brilliant night. It is almost a prelude to the new season, and it is also good to look back at last season.
"It was a fantastic year and to look back tonight at those horses winning big races is amazing. Frodon and Clan Des Obeaux really stepped up to the mark as you might not have thought they would achieve what they did.
"Cheltenham is a special place and you just know the buzz here. I always think the Jump season starts properly in two weeks' time at Chepstow. I think we are all looking forward to some rain and really getting going.
"We have 30 of our team here tonight. Team Ditcheat is a fantastic team and I am team leader in a lot of ways - you can't do it without a team behind you. It's great to have everyone here for a good night.
"I can't wait for the new season. We have a lot of nice horses and they are well forward. We won't be in a massive hurry and will just do what we do."
An outstanding horse of his or any generation is undoubtedly Altior, who maintained his unbeaten record over obstacles and went into the record books as he took his unbeaten stretch to 19 races, 10 of which have come at G1 level including the latest two editions of the G1 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase at The Festival. The Nicky Henderson-trained nine-year-old took the McCoy for Leading Chaser sponsored by Harrison Clark Rickerbys Solicitors while his owner Patricia Pugh was awarded the Leading Owner Sponsored by Rosconn Group (for owners with three or fewer horses in training).
Altior's jockey Nico de Boinville said: "It is great to get so many people under one roof tonight and to have a party before it all kicks off. Everyone thinks they have got the next champion coming along and all their horses are in great form. It is great as everyone is in good spirits and nobody is disappointed."
Referring to stepping Altior up in distance this season, de Boinville continued: "Altior's owners, the boss and myself have all decided to go and try and see if he can become the versatile champion we think he could be. It is worth a shot and he has got the 19 consecutive wins - so let's go for it.
"Altior's achievements and longevity are testament to the team at Seven Barrows and the boss. It is hard enough to keep these horses sound, let alone to keep bringing them back and back and back. We are just incredibly fortunate to have a horse like him."
Team Altior - Patricia Pugh, Nicky Henderson, Nico de Boinville
There was a further honour for de Boinville as he picked up the McCoy for Ride of The Season Sponsored By Natural Green for his winning ride on William Henry in the Coral Cup at The Festival.
The jockey continued: "It is obviously very nice for the panel to give me this prize as they are very highly-esteemed people in the game. I am very honoured.
"We were very far back. I think the boss (Nicky Henderson) probably thought we too far back. It is amazing how fast they go in some of these handicaps and sometimes the hill just finds you out. I knew I had won on the line, once you jump the last and get some momentum you tend to know. Any winner at The Festival is a great thing to happen and something you definitely try to repeat."
Another horse with amazing achievements is Tiger Roll became the first horse since Red Rum to win the £1-million Randox Health Grand National in back-to-back years when scoring in the world's greatest chase at Aintree on April 6. The remarkable nine-year-old, also a four-time winner at The Festival, was awarded the McCoy for Horse Performance of the Season sponsored by NAF.
On accepting the award, Tiger Roll's trainer Gordon Elliott said: "Tiger Roll is the horse of a lifetime. He has won two Grand Nationals and won four times at The Festival, giving Lisa O'Neill and Keith Donoghue their first Festival winners. He has been a very special horse.
"We are very, very lucky to be training him. Whatever he does from now is going to be a bonus and you just have to pinch yourself every day. He gets so many letters and fan mail. We try and reply to everyone but if he met everyone who writes to him, he would be busy every day of the week.
"I put pressure on myself all year to come to Cheltenham and it is the one place to be in March.
"You probably won't see Tiger Roll until Christmas, when there is a three-mile hurdle at Leopardstown he could go for. It will then be the Boyne Hurdle, the Cross Country at Cheltenham and the English Grand National. Everyone always says the Grand National is his plan for the year, but for me the Cross Country is the biggest part and the Grand National is an afterthought."
The McCoy for Leading Professional Jockey sponsored by Magners went to Richard Johnson, who was Champion Jump Jockey for the fourth time in 2018/19.
Johnson said: "I think it has been a great innovation by The Jockey Club to put on these awards and to receive an award is just fantastic.
"The awards come at the nice time, just before the season is kicking into top gear. Everyone is looking forward to getting going and it gets everyone together.
"We all love riding winners at Cheltenham and obviously The Festival itself is the biggest four days of the year for us. It is always a nice place to be and I have had some fantastic days here already - I am hoping there are more to come.
"I think I have lots of nice horses to ride this season. I still think Native River (the 2018 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup winner) has got some big days in him and I know the Tizzards are very happy with him. Thomas Darby ran well here in the spring and will go chasing. Philip (Hobbs) has got a huge amount of talent down with him. Obviously, if Barry (Geraghty) is not available I would love to get my leg over Defi Du Seuil again!
"Me and A P were great mates and this evening has taken off so well over the last three years. Hopefully it can keep going forward. It is always a great honour to receive any award, especially one from The Jockey Club."
J P McManus, the most successful owner ever at The Festival, was awarded the McCoy for Leading Owner sponsored by Rosconn Group (for owners with four or more horses in training). Defi Du Seuil, owned by McManus, was awarded the McCoy for Leading Novice Chaser sponsored by Harrison Clark Rickerbys Solicitors.
On accepting the award, his racing manager Frank Berry said: "J P McManus really appreciates these awards and loves having winners at Cheltenham.
"From February onwards, it is all about Cheltenham. We chat every night about it and he gets very excited.
"A P was such a brilliant jockey and a lovely fellow. We had so much success together and it is great to see his name up there. It is lovely to be here. It is a big thing to have these awards named after him."
Reflecting on last year's Unibet Champion Hurdle success with Espoir D'Allen, Berry continued: "J P is very good at supporting smaller trainers and it was fantastic to see Gavin (Cromwell) and Mark (Walsh) having their first winners at Cheltenham in the Champion Hurdle. It is just sad about what happened to the horse, but it was a great day and Gavin and his team will remember it for a long time.
"Defi Du Seuil and Champ are ones to look forward to this season and Buveur D'Air is back in good form, so wewill be looking forward to seeing him again. He didn't get too far in the Champion Hurdle last season but still retains a lot of his ability and will be competitive."
Also award last night were the awards for The Jockey Club Racecourses South West Region Frequent Runner Championship sponsored by Equi-Trek. The Frequent Runner Championship is aimed at rewarding trainers who run horses regularly at Jockey Club Racecourses in the South West Region - Cheltenham, Exeter, Warwick and Wincanton.
There are two categories of frequent runner. Trainers with 40 or more horses (which was won by Colin Tizzard) and trainers with 40 or fewer horses in training (which was won by Jeremy Scott). Tizzard wins a 12-month lease of a two-horse lorry, courtesy of Equi-Trek while Scott gains the use of a box with food for 20 people at The Festival 2020, courtesy of Cheltenham Racecourse.
Accepting the award on behalf of his father, assistant trainer Joe Tizzard said: "It means we can have another lorry for the year! It is a great thing. Wincanton, Exeter and Cheltenham are all local to us in the South West and it suits everybody that runs horses there. When we get to the end of the season, we can count up our runners to see if we are in the hunt as it makes a big difference to us.
"The McCoys are amazing. We get a good team to come here and they are always keen to come.
"I can't wait to get going this season. We had our owners' open day a fortnight ago, which gets everyone at home buzzing. We don't do a lot in the summer but have had a good summer and can't wait to get going.
"We have a very strong team and today I have been printing out to stick on our window lists of all bumper horses, novice hurdlers and novice chasers. We have got a strong a team as we have ever had and I can't wait to get going.
When asked about which horse he is most looking forward to this season, Tizzard replied: "Lostintranslation. We have minded him for his whole career. We stepped up to three miles at Aintree (when winning the G1 Betway Mildmay Novices' Chase) and the owners were all booked to go to Punchestown but we said no. My dad has loved this horse for the past three or four years. We usually put them in at the deep end, but we have minded this horse. He schooled on Wednesday for the first time this season and looks fantastic. I can't wait to see him this season. It is all about trying to find a Gold Cup horse and I am sure he can take the step up."
On receiving his award, Jeremy Scott said: "It is a wonderful, wonderful prize. The Festival is the pinnacle of racing so to get a box for my owners there is a great pleasure.
"At the end of the day, we have to run the horses where it is right to run the horses but, conveniently for us,the Jockey Club Racecourses are always in tip-top condition and look after the owners, the horses and me as a trainer. It is not hard to run the horses there and conveniently they are quite close to me. It works out well. They put on very good races and it is a pleasure to go racing.
"I think The McCoys are a great innovation. It just helps focus your mind sometimes and is a really good pre-season get together of everyone - the great and the good, as well as maybe the not so good! It helps get us hyped up for the season ahead. Watching the VT made me really revved up and tingling.
"Last season was our best-ever and it was great. We have got to try and match it this year, that is the challenge. We have some nice horses coming through and that is the exciting bit. I hope Dashel Drasher is going to step up. We had a truncated season with him last year and he didn't get off the mark until quite late on and so we were not able to contest any of the really big races. We will probably start off over hurdles and then maybe go chasing with him. He is potentially a very exciting horse."
Details of all winners at The McCoys 2019
LEADING OWNER SPONSORED BY ROSCONN GROUP
Four or more horses - J P McManus
J P McManus is once again the comfortable winner of the Leading Owner award for owners with four or more horses in training. He enjoyed with 39 winners at Jockey Club Racecourses, 23 more than his closest rivals Simon Munir and Isaac Souede. McManus is the most successful owner of all time at The Festival™ presented by Magners with 59 wins. He won the NetJets Leading Owner Award at The Festival 2019, when his five successes over the four days included an eighth Unibet Champion Hurdle with Espoir D'Allen.
Three or fewer horses - Patricia Pugh
Patricia Pugh takes the award for the Leading Owner with three or fewer horses in training. She is best known as the owner of the outstanding Altior, who is unbeaten in 19 starts over obstacles. Altior provided Pugh with four of her five successes at Jockey Club Racecourses in 2018/19 with victories in the G1 Betfair Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown Park, G2 Unibet Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton Park, G1 Betway Champion Chase at Cheltenham and the G1 bet365 Celebration Chase at Sandown Park. Pugh's fifth winner was provided the promising novice hurdler Pym.
LEADING TRAINER SPONSORED BY BEACH INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL ADVISORS
More than 40 horses - Paul Nicholls
Paul Nicholls was Champion Trainer for 11th time in 2018/19 and also comes out on top narrowly at Jockey Club Racecourses, where he trained 62 winners, two more than his old rival Nicky Henderson. The Ditcheat handler's biggest success at Jockey Club Racecourses in 2018/19 included two G1 winners at The Festival - Topofthegame in the RSA Insurance Novices' Chase and Frodon in the Ryanair Chase.
Less than 40 horses - Tom Lacey
Tom Lacey's Ledbury yard has been in the ascendancy over the past few seasons and takes the leading trainer awards for those handlers with under 40 horses. Lacey saddled 11 winners at Jockey Club Racecourses in 2018/19, headed by two Listed winners - Glory And Fortune in the EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club Bumper at Cheltenham on New Year's Day and Jester Jet in the olbg.com Mares' Hurdle at Haydock Park in February.
LEADING PROFESSIONAL JOCKEY SPONSORED BY MAGNERS
The evergreen Richard Johnson is the clear winner of the Leading Professional Jockey award. The four-time champion Jump jockey rode 53 winners across Jockey Club Racecourses in 2018/19, five more than his closest rival Harry Skelton, headed by La Bague Au Roi in the G1 32Red Kauto Star Novices' Chase at Kempton Park on Boxing Day.
LEADING CONDITIONAL JOCKEY SPONSORED BY HAI AIR
Bryony Frost continued to go from strength to strength in the 2018/19 season and takes the Leading Conditional Jockey award with 17 successes at Jockey Club Racecourses. She rode out her claim when partnering her 75th career win at Kempton Park on November 12, 2018. The 24-year-old struck up a tremendous partnership with Frodon, trained by Paul Nicholls. The duo won four of the five starts last season, taking in the G2 Monet's Garden Old Roan Limited Handicap Chase at Aintree, the G3 Caspian Caviar Gold Cup at Cheltenham, the G2 Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham and ending the season with their greatest triumph of all in the G1 Ryanair Chase at The Festival. Her Ryanair Chase success saw Bryony make history by becoming the first female jockey to win a G1 chase at The Festival.
LEADING AMATEUR JOCKEY SPONSORED BY HAI AIR
Mr Sam Waley Cohen
Sam Waley-Cohen is the Leading Amateur Jockey, following a season that yielded eight victories at Jockey Club Racecourses, three winners clear of David Maxwell. Most famous for winning the 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Long Run, his biggest victory last season came on Impulsive Star in the G3 McCoy Contractors Civil Engineering Classic Handicap Chase at Warwick in January.
Sam Waley-Cohen & Nick Hardy