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  Tuesday, 30 April, 2002, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Season's greetings and goodbyes
Best Mate goes clear of Commanche Court
Best Mate proved too good for his Gold Cup rivals
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By Frank Keogh
BBC Sport Online

  Race reports: All the big winners

Jump racing saw records shattered, new stars emerge and said farewell to some old friends in a memorable 2001-02 season.

One man dominated the campaign - Tony McCoy winning his seventh consecutive champion jockey title.

And in the process he created history, doing what was once considered unthinkable by beating Sir Gordon Richards' record for the total number of winners in a season.

Richards set the mark of 269 on the Flat, and it had lasted for 52 years before Ulsterman McCoy narrowed his sights on the target.

McCoy finished the season with 289 victories in all, his final triumph fittingly coming in the last big race of the season, on Bounce Back in the Attheraces Gold Cup at Sandown.

Typical of the man, McCoy bemoaned the fact afterwards he would be back on nought when the 2002-03 season began just two days later.

Although the jumps season now runs for 12 months from late April, it only fully kicks into life with the onset of winter.

  Stars of the show
Florida Pearl: Won four Grade One races including the King George
Best Mate: Gold Cup triumph confirmed potential
Tony McCoy: Record-breaking champion jockey
Jim Culloty: Sealed rare Gold Cup-National double
Martin Pipe: Champion trainer sent out many of McCoy's winners
Jonjo O'Neill: Successful first season at new Gloucestershire training base

McCoy was winning from the start, picking up the first major event when steering home Shooting Light in the Thomas Pink Gold Cup at Cheltenham in November 2001.

Of his victories, some 187 came for champion trainer Martin Pipe.

Other magic McCoy moments included a five-timer at Ascot, and victory on the remounted Family Business in a bizarre novice chase at Southwell where every horse fell.

But he was out of luck when chasing the sport's biggest prizes, finishing second on Best Mate to the rejuvenated Irish raider Florida Pearl in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.

In hindsight, the Kempton race offers a clear illustration of the brittle fortune the sport's riders enjoy.

Victory that day went to Adrian Maguire, just weeks after he became only the seventh jump jockey to ride 1,000 winners in Britain.

Yet Maguire ended up missing the season's biggest meetings at Cheltenham and Aintree through injury.

In the King George, McCoy had picked up the spare ride on Best Mate, with the horse's regular partner Jim Culloty sidelined.

Culloty later admitted he was at a low ebb as he watched the race on a pub TV screen.

But within four months, his luck had changed too as he rode Best Mate to Cheltenham Gold Cup glory.

The genial Irish rider went on to become the first jockey for 26 years to complete the Gold Cup-Grand National double in the same season.

Culloty won a thrilling race at Aintree on Bindaree, whose usual pilot Jamie Goldstein was ruled out just days earlier with a broken leg.

  Fond farewells
The Queen Mother: Jump racing's most famous supporter died at the age of 101
Peter Niven: Jump jockey, one of only seven to record 1,000 winners in Britain, retired
Jimmy Frost: Winner of the 1989 National on Little Polveir, also bowed out
Istabraq: Triple champion hurdler ran his last race
Valiramix: Put down after freak fall in Champion Hurdle
Looks Like Trouble: Fomer Gold Cup winner retired after being injured in the 2002 running

Culloty's Gold Cup win lit up the Cheltenham Festival, which was back in action after foot-and-mouth disease caused the 2001 meeting's cancellation.

Racing welcomed a new star in Best Mate, with some observers believing he could become the best steeplechaser of recent times.

There was sadness, though, in the Champion Hurdle as triple winner Istabraq was pulled up when bidding for a record fourth success in the race.

It was to be the great Irish gelding's last outing, as retirement beckoned.

Meanwhile, McCoy was left devastated when his mount Valiramix had to be put down following a freak stumble as the horse looked poised to take the hurdling crown.

That honour went instead to Hors La Loi III, while Flagship Uberalles proved the two-mile king in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

The champion chase had been named in honour of the Queen Mother more than 20 years earlier to recognise her support for the sport as a dedicated racehorse owner.

At the end of March 2002, racing and the wider world was mourning her death at the age of 101.

The Queen Mother's last winner had been with the Nicky Henderson-trained First Love at Sandown.

And the horse is expected to continue the royal link with jump racing into the 2002-03 season, running in the Queen's colours.

He will be the first steeplechaser the Queen has owned and raced since she ascended to the throne 50 years ago and took over the royal Flat horses of King George VI.

See also:

17 Nov 01 |  Other Sports
Light seals Thomas Pink win
01 Dec 01 |  Horse Racing
Golden triumph for What's Up Boys
26 Dec 01 |  Horse Racing
Florida Pearl shines in King George
27 Dec 01 |  Horse Racing
Supreme Glory wins Welsh National
27 Jan 02 |  Horse Racing
Ned Kelly in Champion win
10 Feb 02 |  Horse Racing
Alexander Banquet takes Hennessy
20 Apr 02 |  Horse Racing
National win for Take Control
27 Apr 02 |  Horse Racing
Surprise win for McCoy
Links to more Horse Racing stories are at the foot of the page.


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