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   Thursday, 2 January, 2003, 09:27 GMT
Horse racing: Magic McCoy
Teetotal McCoy sprays the champagne around
McCoy is teetoal - but had plenty to celebrate

Jockeys frequently vied for headlines with horses in a year where triumphs mixed with controversy and sadness.

As Tony McCoy shattered National Hunt records, the sport said a fond farewell to one of its greatest supporters, the Queen Mother.

Two horses stole the show, Rock of Gibraltar confiming his place among the Flat racing greats, while Best Mate claimed a Gold Cup-King George double over the jumps.

Elsewhere, there were uncomfortable allegations with the BBC Panorama programme uncovering what it called the "corruption of racing".

Horse racing reports

It raised claims of race-fixing, dubious betting networks and jockeys mixing with criminals.

Jockey Club official Jeremy Phipps resigned after being caught on film accusing colleagues of "lacking backbone".

Meanwhile, former jockeys Dermot Browne and Graham Bradley were handed lengthy racing bans.

Another BBC documentary, Kenyon Confronts, filmed three trainers claiming horses could be prevented from winning certain races.

Whether the programmes will cause racing long-term damage is arguable.

But one man who could not be accused of lacking backbone, or stopping winners, was the relentless Tony McCoy.

The rider set out his stall in January to win a truly remarkable contest.

All seven starters failed to put in a clear round, but McCoy refused to be beaten, and remounted for victory.

He went on to shatter the 55-year-old record for most victories in a season, set on the Flat by Sir Gordon Richards.

Over the jumps

Then, he became the most successful ever National Hunt rider by cruising past Richard Dunwoody's mark for the most British winners.

And McCoy capped a memorable 2002 by standing in for the ride on Best Mate and winning the King George VI Chase for the first time at Kempton.

Yet the big meetings proved disappointing for McCoy.

His Cheltenham Festival was marred by the death of Valiramix, who stumbled when poised to win the Champion Hurdle.

Hors La Loi III, ridden by Dean Gallagher, took the race as Istabraq's bid to land the title for a fourth time ended early in the race.

Gallagher was handed an 18-month ban just months later after he tested positive for cocaine.

McCoy also missed out in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, where Jim Culloty celebrated victory aboard Best Mate.

Culloty went on to win the Grand National at Aintree as Bindaree edged out What's Up Boys in a thrilling finish.

On the Flat

While McCoy dominated over the jumps, Kieren Fallon became champion Flat jockey for the fifth time in six years.

But the star of the Flat campaign was undoubtedly Rock of Gibraltar, who broke Mill Reef's record of six straight Group One wins.

His successes included victories at Royal Ascot, extended to five days to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee, and Glorious Goodwood.

The Rock was expected to net an eighth success by landing the Breeders' Cup Mile in Chicago.

But a bad draw and questionable riding tactics saw the Aidan O'Brien-trained horse finish an unlucky second.

O'Brien claimed another English and Irish Derby double, this time with High Chaparral, who also triumphed in the Breeders' Cup Turf.

And Frankie Dettori maintained his high profile with big wins including Marienbard in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

In 2003, racing will again rely on priceless assets like McCoy and Dettori to boost its damaged public image.

 Tony McCoy's mum Claire
"I wanted him to be a priest, but no chance"
 Fergie's Rock
Sir Alex looks back at the career of Rock of Gibraltar
In-depth look back at a wonderful year of sport

Major events


Sport in mourning

Funny Old Year

Sports Personality

Have your say
See also:

02 Apr 02 | Horse Racing
23 Jan 02 | Funny Old Game
28 Oct 02 | Horse Racing
31 Oct 02 | Horse Racing
06 Nov 02 | Horse Racing
27 Oct 02 | Horse Racing
09 Sep 02 | Horse Racing
03 Sep 02 | Horse Racing
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