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  Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 11:18 GMT
The two faces of Cheltenham
Champion jockey McCoy was left distraught after the race after Valiramix fell
McCoy was left distraught after Valiramix's fall
BBC Sport Online's Sophie Brown at Cheltenham

Horse racing's hierachy was turned upside down on the first day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Champion jockey Tony McCoy was expecting his usual daily haul of winners but ended up in tears after having a shocker of a day.

Meanwhile Dean Gallagher, who has had his fair share of downs in recent years, had the best day of his riding career in scooping the feature race, the Smurfit Champion Hurdle on Hors La Loi III.

In 1998, Gallagher was one of the jockeys arrested - but never charged - as part of police investigations into race-fixing and doping.

A 14-month nightmare ensued as he fought to clear his name - it was a battle he won but only at great financial and emotional cost.

The ordeal took its toll and in July 2000, Gallagher was given a six-month ban from racing after a positive test for cocaine.

Back from the brink

Following a stint of rehab, his riding licence was restored the following year.

His comeback is now complete after capturing National Hunt's premier hurdling race.

"All I wanted to do was get back to the way I was before, a happy person enjoying my life and enjoying my racing," said the 33-year-old after his victory.

"It hasn't sunk in yet - at the moment I'm all over the place - high on adrenaline. It's a fantastic feeling."

But just as Gallagher was experiencing an unexpected success, so his weighing room colleague McCoy was tasting a bitter and unexpected low.

The Irish champion jockey had been expecting to spend the first day of the Festival eating further into Sir Gordon Richards' long-standing record of 269 winners in a season.

Despite narrowly coming second in both the first two races, McCoy emerged for the third race, the Champion Hurdle, with high hopes.

He was riding Valiramix and the Martin Pipe yard's confidence in the horse was reflected in the late rush of money that had built up in the betting ring.

McCoy upset

Three furlongs out, the horse looked to be cruising.

But then three flights from home while on the flat, Valiramix clipped the heels of the horse in front and crashed to the ground.

The horse was taken to back to the racecourse stables and then to a nearby equine hospital but was found to have broken a shoulder and had to be put down.

McCoy was too upset to speak about the incident but photographs of the champion jockey in tears revealed just how distraught he was.

Every winner means there has to be a loser and the 2002 Champion Hurdle was a classic example of how triumph and disaster are often intertwined in this sport.

But on this occasion, few had anticipated that Gallagher - with 27 wins this season - would be taking the plaudits, while McCoy, who has 262 wins to his name in this campaign - would be on the receiving end of the racing fates.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Hors La Loi III jockey Dean Gallagher
"There have been some lows"
Cheltenham stages its big jump race meeting from 12-14 March

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