• Synchronised leads home 50-1 outsider The Giant Bolster
• Long Run finishes third under Sam Waley-Cohen
Tony McCoy struggled to remember his first Gold Cup winner after riding his second on Synchronised here on Friday, because “I’ve had a lot of bangs on the head since then”. Yet the qualities that have set him apart from this and every other generation of jump jockeys are as vital as ever, and in Synchronised he had an ideal partner, one that would answer every demand on the long climb to the winning post.
Synchronised is never going to be a “traveller” in a contest run at a championship pace, and through the first two miles of the race he needed some coaxing from the saddle to stay in touch with the leaders, as most eyes concentrated on Kauto Star’s brief, valedictory performance.
As the field climbed towards the ditch on the hill for the final time, though, he was still in touch as Time For Rupert, The Giant Bolster and Long Run, the 7-4 favourite and defending champion, sorted themselves out for the drive to the line.
The Giant Bolster, a 50-1 outsider, briefly threatened to seize the initiative as Long Run struggled to find a finishing kick, but McCoy had Synchronised at full gallop between the last two fences and as a former winner of the Welsh National, he was sure to keep it up all the way up the hill. Synchronised passed the post two-and-a-quarter lengths in front of The Giant Bolster, with Long Run one-paced in third.
“He doesn’t have the physique to be a horse that’s going to travel in a Gold Cup, but he’s all heart and will to win,” McCoy said. “It was just about tagging on to the back of them for as long as I could, and I knew that he was going to come home better than any of them.
“It’s crazy to say it, but he’s not really a chaser. You only have to look at him to realise that, but I just wanted to get to the other side of the fences as quickly as possible and not ask him too many big questions as far as jumping was concerned. I was niggling, slapping and cajoling him all the way round. I was never going well, but I was never in a position I couldn’t win from.”
Synchronised is bred to win a Derby rather than a Gold Cup, and Sadler’s Wells, his sire, is the first horse to have produced a winner of both races. In terms of his connections, however, his pedigree is all National Hunt, as he runs in the colours of JP McManus and is trained by Jonjo O’Neill, who won the 1986 Gold Cup on Dawn Run.
O’Neill is now a member of an exclusive club of two – along with Fred Winter – having both ridden and trained a winner of chasing’s championship race.
“Words can’t put it together really,” O’Neill said. “He’s a smashing little horse with the heart of a lion, and I knew going down the back that he had a chance, as so long as he kept jumping he was going to come home. The problem is keeping him up there, and AP really got him motivated.”
McManus has now won all three of jumping’s most important prizes, with Istabraq – another son of Sadler’s Wells – having taken three Champion Hurdles from 1998, and Don’t Push It carrying his green and gold silks to victory in the Grand National two years ago.
“There’s been some great moments here,” McManus said, “but I think this will stand out with the best of them. AP’s first winner for me was riding the dam of Synchronised, called Mayasta.
“I didn’t [back him], but it wasn’t Jonjo’s fault that I didn’t as they gave me every encouragement and it doesn’t take away from the pleasure of winning the Gold Cup, I can tell you that.”
Sam Waley-Cohen, the rider of Long Run, said that his mount “turned in and jumped the last well and I thought he’d travel forward but he just didn’t, no excuses”. His mount’s third place added £44,000 to Nicky Henderson’s haul from the meeting, however, while his stable-mate, Burton Port, finished fourth, worth another £22,000.
Henderson sent out the first, second and fourth in the closing race, the Grand Annual Chase, and is now just a few thousand pounds behind Paul Nicholls in the 2012 trainers’ championship with Aintree’s Festival meeting likely to decide the outcome.