By Tony Stafford
Alex Steedman on Racing UK got close to the nub of the key issue before yesterday’s Game Spirit Chase (to them Betfair Price Rush Chase) at Newbury. He noted that Jamie Moore would have been distressed at the news from White Hart Lane.
Not just Jamie, Alex, how about me, and possibly you, after all you used to do commentaries for the Arsenal TV channel when they briefly broadcasted a few years back? Oh, and that AP bloke. As he spoke to the press after the decision to jack it all in following Mr Mole’s win, there was a tear in his eye. Emotional that McCoy , especially when he’s just seen Harry Kane wipe out Arsenal’s half-time lead with two goals minutes before going out to ride.
I wonder if the decision, while already made, might have been less precipitously aired if his (and most other sane people)’s football team had continued their long-held record of winning every time they go in at the interval with a lead.
What is it about Michael Owen and 12.45 p.m. Saturday kick-offs that incur such annoyance? A lovely man and a true racing fan – he’s put a chunk of his earnings into the sport – he manages to preside over Gunners melt-downs – or is it melts-down? Why is punctuation so difficult?
So, I digress, as you all know. Here’s Jamie going out on Sire de Grugy, knowing he’s on the best horse, the horse that stepped in while Sprinter Sacre was going through his heart-scare phase, but ‘why’, he asked himself, ‘did they let him get that header’? As he said beforehand, there was to be no hint of a conditioning run, despite his long absence from the track, but in the event, the jumping was off key and the eventual ‘unseated’ was almost inevitable.
Meanwhile AP was recovering from Mr Mole’s intractability at the start when he lost many lengths, probably thinking (the horse, of course, not the jockey) of events in North London rather than West Berkshire.
After the first fence, the other JP McManus entry Uxizandre and Barry Geraghty (surely the next riding custodian of those green and gold silks) even had a look-round to see where his great friend and erstwhile rival had gone.
Uxizandre’s bold jumping from the front must have led many to believe he could hold on, but Mr Mole came through powerfully from the turn as Barry’s mount faded, providing the moment (200 wins for the season) for the real McCoy to make his heart-felt announcement.
In the manner of sport, AP ends up on the deck at the first 30 minutes later, in the Schweppes, sorry Betfair, and the race wasn’t much better for Jamie. He chose the wrong one as brother Joshua was near the front all the way to win on 20-1 shot Violet Dancer, who as dad and trainer Gary recalled “got beat at 1-5 at Lingfield the other day”.
The BBC, those steadfast supporters of all things horse racing (ahem, Ed.), immediately took on the retirement news as the biggest of the day, inserting it at regular moments in the day’s football commentaries, giving the lie to the notion that they can’t see the news for the trees.
But after all, AP was BBC Sports Personality of the year once a few years ago, and that is one entity, like East Enders, that the Corporation will not allow to wither on the vine. No, that phrase was not coined after the former BBC sports commentator, the late David Vine. He’d have loved it if he was still broadcasting. His key interest, I seem to recall, during snooker championships especially, was the amount of money involved.
If he was still able to be commentating on a Manchester United game of the 2014-5 season, he’d have had the wages of all the players on his crib sheet, showing the same envy he did in the poor old days.
For you, me and the BBC, the Real McCoy is unchallenged. But Wikipedia, that often suspect medium of all things factual, doesn’t mention the jockey in its exposition of the derivation of the phrase. It is meant to have originated in Glasgow, first during a conflict between rival branches of the MacKay family, and then in an 1881 book, published in that city, the Rise and Fall of the Union Club.
In the US, a politician, a boxer and an inventor all of that surname, had the phrase ascribed to them at various stages of the 20th Century, but those sketchy references will have been pushed into the ether once the “How great was AP McCoy?” train gets into full swing.
A quick resume of his career is in order. Since his first season as a conditional when he had 74 wins in 1994-5, he has been champion, never once falling behind 140 British wins and with a maximum of 289 in the middle of the Martin Pipe era. That figure even exceeded Sir Gordon Richards’ best of 269, but neither Richards’ total wins (4,870) or title wins (26) have been matched.
He came in a couple of years after the almost equally-talented Adrian Maguire and ended that talented rider’s expectations of at least a single title. In 1994-5, Maguire with 194 had got within three wins of ending Richard Dunwoody’s three-time hold on the title, but managed only 130 the following season as McCoy’s first ton, 140, was good enough to foil his challenge.
Since Maguire’s career waned in the latter half of that decade – he retired in 2002 after a series of injuries – Richard Johnson stepped in as the main challenger, and remains in that unenviable position.
He’s passed the century mark for each of the last 19 seasons, and with 121 so far, is just 79 wins behind the champ, which is par for the course. Looking at the fresh-faced lieutenant, it’s hard to believe he’s 37, so if he’s ever to win a title, you’d have to think it would need to come in the next campaign. At least there’s a chance he can do it.
I don’t do Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other Gram, but almost everyone else in the electronic world does. I even have to ask someone to take a photo with my phone and wished I didn’t need to the other day when I wanted to depict the boss’s three two-year-olds.
All three are going on nicely and possibly the most precocious, now officially named Highway Robber, will have gone up Bury Hill with a spring in his step yesterday, especially if someone had told him that his mum, Lawyers Choice, had just delivered a nice big colt foal by Mayson.
He already has the decent Paul Cole-trained handicapper Dutch Art Dealer and the promising Dutch Law as siblings, so there will be three chances for the new boy to get some upgrades on his pedigree were he ever to be presented at a sale.
This is the time when breeding rather than Flat racing exercises the interest of owner-breeders and the stallion parade at the Tattersalls February sale drew a large crowd on Thursday. The car park was packed, as was the buffet room, scene of many a deal throughout the year. Lots of people liked the new stallion Gregorian, while I was again aware that Highway Robber has many a feature of his dad Dick Turpin.
Lot 29 Hermione’s Dream is, I know, going to plague me for the rest of my life. I was sitting in the front row, opposite the auctioneers, as she went around the ring, getting knocked down for 2,000gns. She was unraced, but has two young colts on the ground and was sold in foal to Dick Turpin, but to a June cover, so an early May foal can be expected.
Her mum, a daughter of Barathea, won and has produced four winners from her only four products to race and she has one extra distinction. She was the only daughter in the sale of Oasis Dream, who stands this year at 75,000gns. Bet you the man who bought her, possibly for exportation to Scandinavia, couldn’t believe his luck. Nor could Harry Kane!