My APpointment with AP McCoy

There are few pastimes in the world, dear reader, that give the everyday working class Joe (or Matt) the same chance to meet with sporting royalty than horse racing.

I mean, imagine trying to have a quick chat with David Beckham. Or hitting a few balls with Tiger Woods or Andy Murray. It's just not going to happen, unless you're a multi-millionaire offering to sponsor one of those overpaid icons.

But, in our little equestrian microcosm, dreams can become reality. Today, I will fulfill a minor sporting ambition of mine, when I meet the great jumps jockey of all time, Mr Anthony Peter McCoy.

McCoy, champion jockey for fourteen straight years, and holder of virtually every NH record worth holding, continues his quest for the 'elusive' fifteenth title with a book of rides at Fontwell this afternoon. And in the feature race on the card, the 3.20, he will ride none other than Night Orbit, the horse in which I own a piece.

It's not the case that you can ring AP's agent and ask for him to ride (unless you're David Johnston or the Queen or some such). Rather, AP's agent rings up your trainer and demands that you put the greatest jockey (sorry, Mr Francome, but that accolade is no longer yours) on your horse. And who in their right mind would refuse. Sure, it's a bit tough on an honest and hard-working jockey like Mattie Bachelor, who misses out today. But, really, it's a no-brainer and the sort of thing that happens frequently enough.

So, my personal borderline-pant-wetting-anticipation aside, what chance Night Orbit? Cue the caveats...

It is as ferociously competitive a heat as I've seen for many a long Monday. Eleven runners go to post, and the complete outsider finished second in a Cheltenham Festival race on his penultimate start!

Let me lay out some facts:

- 'Olly' (as we call Night Orbit) has been racing on the front over hurdles. There are four or five who like to make the pace, so ideally we'll sit in behind the early speed.

- The going is likely to be on the soft side of soft, if that makes sense, meaning it will be a fierce test of stamina.

- 'Olly' is moving up two furlongs in trip, having never raced beyond two and a half mile before. Personally, I think the trip should suit, but there's no evidence in the formbook to support that perception.

- Aside from the Grade 2 race in which Orbit finished behind Zaynar (!) last time out, this is the toughest assignment to date. It is certainly the toughest race he's had a legitimate chance of winning.

- This is bound to be the quickest race 'Olly' has encountered, and there is a niggle in my mind that he might just be found out by that.

- Against that, 'Olly' has more improvement likely than virtually every other runner, and his rating increments from race to race bear that out.

- Moreover, AP McCoy could have picked any horse bar Over The Creek, favourite Aldertune, and Fruity O'Rooney, and the regular pilot would have been 'jocked off' for him. He (or his agent) chose Night Orbit. So, he'll get every chance (and then some) from the plate.

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My verdict? Honestly, I've got no idea! I've gone through the form, and he's a bit to find. I've gone through the likely pace in the race, and this is the key I think. If Olly can go with them at a strong pace, and stay the extra quarter mile, he's in there with a great shout. The first of those two 'ifs' is significant though, and I hope my nagging concern is unfounded.

Obviously, as I'm wont to do, I've invested fairly robustly win and place. I'd be disappointed if he's out of the first four, which means a place wager has a decent chance of paying off.

********

Staying with the wonderful world of hurdling, and there were two significant (perhaps?) Champion Hurdle trials this weekend.

Punjabi, the reigning champ, was usurped by upstart Medermit at Haydock on Saturday. Despite there being only four runners, it looked a reasonable gallop in the claggy underfoot conditions, and there was no fluke about Medermit's victory. Although I wouldn't be sure he'd confirm placings with the Champ in March, I do expect him to be a player, given both the horse's and the trainer's (Alan King) record at the Festival. Indeed, Medermit was one of just a handful I gave a chance to in that preview back at the start of December, along with Punjabi, Celestial Halo and Go Native. I wouldn't want to change that quartet for any other now.

Solwhit won pretty much unchallenged yesterday in the Irish Champion Hurdle, prompting many clueless money-grubbing bookies to make him favourite for THE Champion Hurdle in March. In my opinion, that Leopardstown race was as far from a Champion Hurdle trial as is possible to be, with two strong candidates only, and a wearying 'quag-slog' ensuing.

That Celestial Halo was only fourth was a little disappointing, but I think he'll prove far better on good ground at the Festival. Solwhit's lack of Festival form and apparent preference for flat tracks leads me to an inclination to lay this one at around 4/1.

One more thing. If you thought Solwhit's was a high class performance, consider this. The maiden hurdle earlier on the card over the same distance was won in a time just 1.2 seconds (or around five lengths) slower than Solwhit, and the winner carried two pounds MORE than Solwhit. Would you want single figure odds about Rite Of Passage in the Champion Hurdle?

I think you'd need to be a half-whit to want to back Solwhit at 3/1 or 7/2. I'll leave the last word to Ladbrokes' Mike Dillon, on why his firm left Solwhit unchanged at 6/1:

“Solwhit went off at 5-6 and won like an odds-on shot should, in conditions he’ll probably not face at Cheltenham.

“By our reckoning it remains a wide-open Champion Hurdle, and nothing we saw on Saturday or today has convinced us otherwise. We’re happy to lay the field at 5-1."

Spot on Mike!

Right, I'm off to Fontwell for what is sure to be a slightly surreal experience...

Matt

22 replies
  1. Paul Whelan says:

    Fingers crossed for all connections concerned with Night Orbit today buddy. I shall keep an eye out for you in the paddock on ATR!

  2. mike brennan says:

    thanks matt, all the best for this afternoon. ill have a few of the brennan shekles on olly.

  3. george e r says:

    best of luck with night orbit and have anice day and just enjoy the experience

  4. Darren Power says:

    Nice one Matt, sounds like you are really living the dream, fingers crossed for a win today

  5. Connor Gallagher says:

    Hi Matt,

    I for one am really looking forward to the racing today; sure makes a welcome change to have some competitive stuff on a Monday afternoon! Wishing you all the best with regards to Night Orbit – try not fluff your words in front of the champ! 😉

    Regards,

    Connor

  6. Jim Cannon says:

    Good luck this afternoon. Always exciting with a specific interest in a runner. I’ll make sure I watch the race.

  7. sim says:

    Hi Matt,
    Best of luck for today, looks a tough race to call though…sorry but think i will be going e/w on ‘Go Amwell’.
    Thanks again for a great blog,
    Sim

  8. Andrew says:

    Lets hope for a steady pace in the race so that the
    finishing kick of Night Orbit is not blunted.

    Best of luck Matt with you living the dream.

  9. graham ashford says:

    HI MATT
    VERY BEST OF LUCK FOR TODAY
    WILL BE CHEERING HIM ON
    HAD A FEW QUID FOR A PLACE

  10. Patrick Gribbin says:

    Hello Matt and good luck for today, (1st comment on site)
    Some time ago my nephew dated A.P.’ sister. He is now married to a girl from Tipperary so my opportunity to be related to the legend passed by!
    Look forward to see Orbit run.

    Regards Patrick

  11. norrie says:

    hi matt, best of luck today, i took tony to perth races 4or 5 years ago fulfilling a lifelong ambition to meet him and he gave me 2 winners as well.

  12. JOHN L says:

    have a great day Matt dont forget to give the champ the best instructions hope all goes well
    regards
    JOHN L

  13. John Philbin says:

    good luck to you and olly, matt… have a great day out !
    i’ll have some of my lolly on olly

  14. ron.goodall says:

    to matt
    best of luck with night orbit it will be a watching brief for me i was
    going to back aldertune with peace corps at w/ton to singles and a double

  15. Brian says:

    Seems tough on Mattie Bachelor being jocked off. Surely, McCoy gets enough decent rides from O’Neill and Henderson without his agent ringing up other trainers to nick their best rides. Hopefully, everyone happy as your horse ran a good race and Mattie picked up a nice winner at Lingfield.

  16. Peter says:

    Unlucky – your assessment was about right.
    Must say though that I don’t see it as a no brainer to put AP up. Stable jockey will have ridden out and also used to the horse on the track. AP will not be queueing up to ride him instead of his retainer’s horses in the future.
    Agree it wil have been a great experience and hope you enjoyed it but I do have some sympathy with the normal jockey.

  17. Ben Aitken (NTF) says:

    As with all great EW bets your boy finishes 4th! Nice run for his 1st hcp experience and he was giving weight away to the 1st three. Great stuff mate and I hope you enjoyed your day out with A P 🙂

    By the way, I agree with your SOLWHIT comments. No Cheltenham Festival form is a worry for the horse.

    • Matt Bisogno says:

      Hi all

      Firstly, thank you very much for your kind wishes, which are never expected and always very well received.
      Secondly, I need to clarify a point regarding Mattie Bachelor. I had it wrong. Mattie and AP have the same agent, and the agent knew that Mattie was riding at Lingfield on a horse he won on the other day, which is why he rang to offer Mr McCoy’s services.

      As it turned out, Mattie rode a belter on Ballyfoy (the horse in question) to double up, and AP rode an excellent race to finish a well held fourth. Giving a stone to the winner and more than ten pounds to the places was tough, but – in truth – Olly lacks that finishing kick, and would have not been better than fourth off level weights (in my opinion).

      So, how was it with AP? Well, he had little to say before the race, and I strongly suspected a touch of the Lester Piggott’s about it. But, to his infinite credit, he stood with us for fully ten minutes after the race (he wasn’t riding in the next) to give us his detailed thoughts on the horse.

      Those thoughts were he’s an honest stick but doesn’t have a kick; he would get further no problem; he handled the ground, though he might like it a bit quicker (don’t most?!); and, we should stick to decent handicaps with him for the rest of this season.

      He was a gent, and I was somewhat shy and awestruck – believe me, it doesn’t happen often!

      A really great day and now, with a following wind, all roads lead to Cheltenham on Thursday 18th March for the Pertemps Final, a BIG handicap hurdle into which we will hopefully sneak at the bottom of the weights. Now what if McCoy were to ride him that day?! Dare to dream. 🙂

      Matt

  18. Leigh says:

    I personally cant stand Tony Mccoy, he is a very aggressive rider who gives horses far too hard a race, I would be devastated to see him ride Baggsy, He used his whip far too frequently and is very uncomfortable viewing, His degree of success is down to his own greed for winning more than any compassion for horses or riding ability (He would not be champion jockey if whips were banned). I will never forgive him for throwing his whip in fury after Gloria Victis broke his leg in the Gold cup, horse standing there about to be shot, and he is annoyed because he lost the Gold Cup.

    People that praise Mccoy tend to be punters who dont care how much a horse is battered so long as they win their bet, Extotic Dancer would probably not have dropped dead at Aintree had he not been beaten all the way up the home straight.

    Sorry, but I dont Like Tony Mccoy

  19. Joyce says:

    I agree with Leigh, that’s he’s too agressive, but I suppose that’s
    why he’s a great Jockey……but well done on Night Orbit, he wasn’t
    far away at all………..gaining experience all the time, just a matter of time before he wins!

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