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McCoy's in Sync with more National glory; Hero hunts for Welsh version.

Byline: CHRIS WRIGHT

TONY McCOY has already proved he's a National hero over the past 12 months. Now he is bidding to complete the 'National' set on board Jonjo O'Neill's Synchronised in the Welsh version at Chepstow (1.45pm) this afternoon.

While breaking all National Hunt records and winning the biggest races in the calendar National victories were sparse on the Northern Irishman's CV.

Belmont King's success in the Scottish Grand National back in 1997 was surprisingly his only success in the four home versions until just four years ago.

His weighing room colleague Ruby Walsh was usually the man for Nationals. He is the only jockey still riding - although he is currently on the sidelines injured - to have won all four Nationals. He even went close on Cornish Rebel to a clean sweep in the same season - after wins for Silver Birch (Welsh), Numbersixvalverde (Irish) and Hedgehunter (Aintree) he was denied by the narrowest of margins by Formby jockey Keith Mercer and Joes Edge at Ayr in 2005.

But McCoy has got a few monkeys off his back in recent seasons with Butler's Cabin giving him a first Irish success at Fairyhouse in 2007. And most famously ending his John Smith's Grand National hoodoo at the 15th attempt on Don't Push It at Aintree last April leading to him being voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year last month.

Today in the rearranged Coral Welsh National he will partner well-backed favourite Synchronised - the eight-year-old he partnered to a gruelling win in the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last March.

It was a real war of attrition at the Midlands track with Synchronised coming out on top of just three finishers in heavy conditions.

He was far from foot perfect with his jumping that day, but if it turns into another battle in similar testing conditions today McCoy could bring up the National foursome. Trainer O'Neill, who also broke his own Aintree hoodoo with Don't Push It's success, said: "At home he seems to be in great nick and I couldn't be happier. The only thing that I'm not that happy about is that he's gone up in the weights (7lb) since he last ran over fences.

"One thing definitely in his favour will be the conditions - it really can't be soft enough for him. When he won at Uttoxeter it was nearly unraceable so we know he goes on heavy and he jumps and he stays."

Synchronised has run twice this season over hurdles, staying on well at Cheltenham last time. And O'Neill is hoping he can again help McCoy to National success.

The Jackdaws Castle handler added: "He's come out of his last race at Cheltenham in great form, he's on really good terms with himself and everything has gone well.

"He's one of only a few in the race that looks to be still improving, or at least we hope he is. He's a galloper, though. He isn't a horse that you'd say has much class about him, he's a real staying chaser.

"It would be lovely to give AP a Welsh National - it would certainly keep a smile on his face."

But if McCoy is to be denied it might be by another National specialist in trainer Nigel Twiston-Davies and his well-handicapped Ballyfitz.

Twiston-Davies is the only trainer still plying his trade to have won the National at Aintree twice (Earth Summit 1998 and Bindaree 2002). He has also had three successes in the Scottish version (Captain Dibble 1992, Earth Summit 1994 and Little Bud 2009) and also bids for a third win at Chepstow following victories for Earth Summit in 1997 and Bindaree six years later.

Ballyfitz has won at the course over hurdles, likes testing conditions and was decent staying on fifth in last season's Welsh National.

The 11-year-old fell at Aintree in April, but is feasibly treated and ran well to finish fourth over the fixed brush hurdles at Haydock last time. If McCoy is to be denied Twiston-Davies' charge looks the most likely candidate at rewarding each-way odds.

CAPTION(S):

NISE GUY FINISHES FIRST: Tony McCoy rides Synchronised to the Midlands National at Uttoxeter last March
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 8, 2011
Words:694
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