04/09/2010 11:00PM

Don't Push It, McCoy win Grand National


Don't Push It gave Britain's most highly decorated jumps jockey, Tony McCoy, his first victory in the Grand National Steeplechase on Saturday with a five-length victory over Black Apalachi in the 4 1/2-mile, $1.4 million spectacle that was filled with drama both before and during the race.

Bet down to 10-1 co-favoritism with eventual fourth-place finisher Big Fella Thanks, Don't Push It is the product of perhaps the most storied team currently active in jump racing. He is owned by J.P. McManus, a partner of Robert Sangster's in the early days of Sangster's raids on the American bloodstock market and the owner of three-time Champion Hurdle winner Istabraq, and trained by Jonjo O'Neill, who is most famous for having been the rider of the legendary mare Dawn Run, the only horse ever to win both the Champion Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

But the drama at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool was palpable even before Don't Push It's heroics as co-favorite Big Fella Thanks was deprived of his regular rider 90 minutes before the start of the Grand National when Ruby Walsh suffered an apparent broken arm in a spill aboard Celestial Halo in the Aintree Hurdle. Trainer Paul Nicholls took Barry Geraghty off the 16-1 Tricky Trickster to ride Big Fella Thanks and replaced Geraghty with Richard Johnson on Tricky Trickster, who would finish ninth.

It was the 100-1 longshot Conna Castle who led until approaching Becher's Brook the second time around, with Black Apalachi hot on his heels. Trained by Dessie Hughes, Black Apalachi led until McCoy put Don't Push It in front at the last of the 30 fences. Black Apalachi and Denis O'Regan fought back, but nothing was going to deny McCoy aboard the winner. It was 20 lengths further back in third to last year's fourth-place finisher, the 16-1 State of Play, with Big Fella Thanks fourth.

Among the other principals, 2008 winner and 2009 runner-up Comply or Die, the 12-1 third choice, was 12th, beaten a distance after moving into a contending position jumping the Canal Turn the second time around. Last year's winner, the 14-1 Mon Mome, fell at the fifth last fence when in about sixth place. Conna Castle was pulled up soon after relinquishing the lead.

"This means everything to me," said a jubilant McCoy as he received his well deserved accolades.

The leading jumps jockey in Britain every year since the 1995-96 season, the 36-year-old Irishman had won three Champion Hurdles including this year's renewal on Binocular, a Cheltenham Gold Cup aboard Mr Mulligan, and the King George Chase on Best Mate, but never a Grand National. This was his 15th try in the Grand National.

It also was the first Grand National victory for both O'Neill and McManus.