McCoy may miss Cheltenham

Champion jockey Tony McCoy’s stars were not in the ascendant yesterday when he was unseated by Polar Red and fractured his cheekbone, putting his Cheltenham chances in jeopardy.

It had not been a good day at Plumpton for the 29-year-old Irishman, who had been defeated on all five of his fancied rides and had suffered a crashing fall on Tanterari earlier in the afternoon.

His injury was caused by a kick in the face after he was unseated by the Martin Pipe-trained Polar Red at the second fence in the Tyser Insurance Ltd Novices Chase. He was helped to the ambulance, and was sent to the Princess Royal Hospital in Hayward’s Heath after being seen by the racecourse medical officer.

The fracture will require surgery, which McCoy is hopeful that his own specialist, Dr Michael Foy, will be able to carry out. In the meantime, the jockey is cautiously optimistic about his return to the saddle, reckoning on an absence of days rather than weeks.

This will depend entirely on when Jockey Club medical advisor Michael Turner will allow him back. McCoy’s hopes of being allowed to wear a protective mask, as other sportsman do, thereby hastening his return to race-riding, were quickly quashed by the Jockey Club.

Spokesman John Maxse explains: “Dr Turner says that providing the fracture is towards the lower end of the scale, it should not be a problem for Tony McCoy to return in time for Cheltenham. However, the nature of these injuries can vary substantially. He wouldn’t be allowed to ride with any kind of protective mask.”

The Cheltenham Festival kicks off in four weeks time, and providing there are no complications, McCoy could easily be back in the saddle in time for National Hunt racing’s most prestigious meeting.

His absence from the racetrack will also put his title defence in jeopardy. Richard Johnson is snapping at his heels, having reduced McCoy’s lead in the battle for this year’s title to seven winners. Time out for the defending champion will give Johnson a chance to eat into and perhaps eliminate that lead.

McCoy is due to visit a maxillofacial surgeon today to determine the seriousness of the fracture. He was in any case due to sit out the action today with a one-day ban for a whip offence picked up at Hereford earlier this month.