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Saturday, 15 December, 2018

Masterchef McCoy crowned again but Francome hits jackpot with cheese twist

James Burn tests out three champions' kitchen skills

Sir Anthony McCoy: apple pie pudding earned rave reviews
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Jockeys and food do not exactly go together like bread and butter, although the fare here is a step above a slice of sourdough.

Richard Hughes, John Francome and Sir Anthony McCoy were among the finest jockeys of their generations, but can they boil an egg?

It is something James Corsellis and Mark Little forked out £13,000 to discover at Cheltenham last year when the prize of a meal prepared by three champion jockeys was offered by tonight's host Freddie Tulloch, whose Queen's Arms in East Garston has a fine reputation for food - no pressure cooker then lads.

Eggs are off the menu tonight, but a party of 40, which grew from an original 30 perhaps because of the gastronomic giants at the stove, can look forward to a crab and avocado starter, roast beef and apple pie to finish.

"We're making Paul Nicholls eat it first because they won't poison him," jokes Corsellis, who part-owns the trainer's Ladbrokes Trophy hope Braqueur D'Or and whose purchase will raise money for the Injured Jockeys Fund and Countryside Alliance.

Nicholls, accompanied his stable jockey Sam Twiston-Davies, who points out the main reason he still lives at home with mum Cath is his lack of culinary skills, recalls his teen days working in bakery to fund the purchase of a point-to-pointer, although a doughnut disaster when Homer Simpson's favourite food was salted rather than sweetened on his watch might not inspire confidence for McCoy and his apple pie.   

Hughes isn't feeling the heat.

"I can't burn anything," says the former Flat champion, whose riding career was challenged by the scales, but tonight is tackling crab shells.

He reckons he has cooked just once for wife Lizzie in 17 years of marriage.

"It was one Valentine's night, but I didn't get to do it again," he explains, before wondering if a few winters riding in India might make for a spicey starter. "I had to get the chef to taste it otherwise it would have been way too hot!"

Hughes a good cook? Former Flat ace was chuffed with his crab starter

It certainly looks good.

"It is good!" Hughes – now training – retorts, rightly proud of a dish that earns ten out of ten from one critic.

Private Cellar's Charlie Stanley-Evans, who has contributed the wine including a gorgeous Chateau Tayet, is another satisfied customer and more delights follow when Francome's roast beef arrives, accompanied by cheesy Yorkshire pudding – a twist so good it might just sit alongside that Sea Pigeon ride in the seven-time champion jockey's accomplishments.

"Even a blind pig can sometimes find an acorn," he suggests, but a smiling Little is impressed.

"To do that for 40 people and keep it that rare ..." he says. "For me, Francome came up trumps. There were a lot of balls to juggle there."

McCoy is not to be outdone, however, and his apple pie earns rave reviews, so much so he is crowned Masterchef, earning a wooden spoon that might sit alongside his collection of 20 champion jockey titles rather being used to stir a risotto or something special for wife Chanelle.

"In my early years I ate a lot of chocolate and a lot of rubbish and when I got married, Channelle cooked healthy food for me, fish, vegetables, the right things, but I never cooked and if she wasn't around I'd come to the Queen's and when it's Chanelle's birthday I won't be cooking – I'll take her out," he says, before – like his great pal Hughes – confirming he might retire from the kitchen with an unbeaten record.

"I've enjoyed even if I preferred the pressure of riding a short-price favourite at Cheltenham than cooking for 40 people!"

Donations to the Injured Jockeys Fund can be made here and the Countryside Alliance here.


We're making Paul Nicholls eat it first because they won't poison him
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