Champion jockey Tony McCoy rides the favourite Chicuelo in the Thomas Pink Gold Cup at Cheltenham

Tony McCoy’s (pictured) disciplined approach to trimming his 5ft 10in frame for the big occasion should pay rich dividends on Chicuelo in Saturday’s Thomas Pink Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

Chicuelo, with 10st 1lb, has been laid out for the two-and-a-half-mile chase by champion trainer Martin Pipe, who has won the race on no less than five occasions. Predictably, he is hot favourite following an impressive victory at Market Rasen in the summer.

McCoy considers his severe diet of vitamin pills, a piece of chicken and a jaffa cake to be worthwhile. If Chicuelo jumps round he should win.

McCoy, who has ridden at 10st 1lb since February last year, has to shed 6lb. He has been sweating in a hot bath twice a day and drinking lots of sweet tea and mineral water.

The important thing is to keep your strength up,” he says. His strict diet has lasted for a week and he adds: “I don’t feel bad at all.”

He will feel even better if he rides Chicuelo into the hallowed Cheltenham winners’ enclosure with the knowledgeable crowd’s cheers ringing in his ears.

Changing places

Originally, I had been fancying another Pipe challenger, Lady Cricket, who won the race two years ago, but her trainer decided toswitch her to another race at Cheltenham on Friday.

The in-form stable of Henrietta Knight is represented by Perfect Fellow and Foly Pleasant. Perfect Fellow made an impressive reappearance at Cheltenham last month in the race won by both Shooting Light and The Outback Way en-route to Thomas Pink glory.

Foly Pleasant finished second to Shooting Light last year and, together with Irish raider It’s Time For A Win, may provide the biggest dangers to Chicuelo.

Shooting Light reappears in the Intervet Trophy and, even without the benefit of a previous outing, should successfully concede weight all round.

Henrietta Knight’s Bangor winner Keep Smiling should open proceedings on the right note in the IFTE Novices’ Chase, while the open Tote Bookmakers Handicap Hurdle may be best left to Jonjo O’Neill’s Native Emperor.

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