Nicky Henderson finally got the winner he needed, but perhaps not in the race or with the jockey that people would have expected.
Amateur jockey Nico de Boinville has demonstrated his ability on the track for a while, but is perhaps better known for his role as Henderson’s work rider.
Impeccably preparing champions like Sprinter Sacre and Long Run each day behind the scenes, De Boinville has then had to watch as other jockeys ride them to glory in front of the big crowds.
Never has he begrudged the likes of Barry Geraghty and Sam Waley-Cohen for getting the rides ahead of him, but he undoubtedly hoped it would one day be him riding into the winners’ enclosure.
Yesterday he came close to that with Ma Filleule, but was overtaken on the final straight, and settled for second.
So the saying goes, ‘A bad dress rehearsal is a good first show’, and today De Boinville certainly put on a good show in the Coral Cup.
Henderson had been careful in recent weeks to ensure that his top claimer would still get 5lbs, especially given that his runner, the six-year-old Whisper, was almost carrying top weight.
The Coral Cup is notoriously competitive and difficult to call, but Henderson knows how to win it, having trained Spirit River to victory in 2010. Twenty-seven horses lined up for this year’s edition, and De Boinville made sure to steer clear of trouble by positioning himself near the front from the start.
After a brilliant spin, he led coming over the final hurdle, but the victory was by no means sealed, as Champion Jockey AP McCoy was finishing strongly on Get Me Out Of Here.
Not shaken by the pressure of holding onto the lead, De Boinville kept his mount focused and, after a photo finish, it was announced he had sealed the victory. Henderson said of the result, which gave him his first winner of this year’s Festival: “That’s good, we needed one!
“It was a good ride from Nico, it’s fantastic.”
Unsurprisingly, his jockey was more gushing in his reaction to the win, saying: “It’s unreal, it means everything. I’ve been waiting for a nice winner like this all season, and it’s come just at the right moment. I’m delighted.
“I was very, very worried when I could see (AP) coming up to me, but it’s such a great feeling when they jump and travel as well as my horse did.”
“I didn’t have a clue that I’d won – you don’t dream this sort of thing happens.
“It will probably never happen again. I’m very grateful to (Henderson) for letting me ride it, and the owner Dai Walters.”
It is likely that De Boinville, who is set to have two remaining rides at the Festival, will turn professional after this week is over, and he can do that safe in the knowledge he has a Festival winner under his belt.
Elsewhere on day two, there was not a great deal to smile about for Henderson. Cup Final and Cocktails at Dawn finished 10th and 11th respectively in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle, Kid Cassidy finished 7th in the Champion Chase and stablemate Captain Conan was pulled up, and in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, Dawalan finished down in 13th.
It was an unusually frustrating day for AP McCoy, who had been aboard Henderson’s disappointing Cup Final and Kid Cassidy. The Champion Jockey finished out of the places on Carlingford Lough in the RSA Chase, was nudged out by Whisper in the Coral Cup, was brought down on Goodwood Mirage in the Fred Winter and finished down the field on a fading Definitely Red.