Tag Archive for: AP McCoy

Tributes pour in on social media for Trevor Hemmings

Sir Anthony McCoy was among those to take to social media to pay his respects to leading owner Trevor Hemmings, who died on Monday evening, aged 86.

McCoy won 11 races on Albertas Run, arguably the classiest horse Hemmings ever owned given he won the 2008 Royal & SunAlliance Chase and the Ryanair twice, in 2010 and 2011.

He also won the Grade One Melling Chase at Aintree in 2010.

McCoy took to Twitter to say: “Desperately sad news that Trevor Hemmings has died. I’m very proud to have worn his iconic colours on many wonderful days. He was a great friend to many but a greater friend to our sport and that of his beloved @pnefc. Thoughts with all his family and friends.”

Trevor Hemmings (left) with Tony McCoy and Albertas Run
Trevor Hemmings (left) with Tony McCoy and Albertas Run (David Davies/PA)

Paul Nicholls won back-to-back Scottish Nationals for Hemmings with Vicente in 2016 and 2017, and said: “Incredibly sad to learn of the passing of Mr Hemmings. A truly fantastic supporter of National Hunt racing for decades who will be sorely missed. All of team Ditcheat’s thoughts are with Mr Hemmings’ closet family and friends. May he rest in peace.”

Oliver Sherwood famously trained Many Clouds to provide Hemmings with a third Grand National in 2015. He also won the Hennessy Gold Cup (now Ladbrokes Trophy) in 2014.

“RIP ‘Boss’ – a true legend of a man but as important he was a true gentleman #trevorhemmings,” said Sherwood.

Tom Scudamore was on board Cloth Cap who won the Ladbrokes Trophy last November.

Cloth Cap was a hugely impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy last year for Hemmings
Cloth Cap was a hugely impressive winner of the Ladbrokes Trophy last year for Hemmings (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He posted: “Very sad to hear the passing of Trevor Hemmings. A gentleman to deal with and one of jump racing’s greatest supporters. Condolences to his family. RIP”

Mick Fitzgerald rode the likes of Afsoun, Blue Shark, Trabolgan and Juveigneur to big-race wins in Hemmings’ famous colours. He tweeted: “Sad to hear of the passing of a true gentleman of the game. Trevor Hemmings loved this sport and I shall miss his phone calls when he had a winner on big days. I had some great days wearing his colours. RIP.”

Sam Twiston-Davies rode Vicente to both of his Scottish National successes and added: “Incredibly sad to hear the passing of Trevor Hemmings. An absolute gentleman to deal with and did so much for racing. Condolences to his family. R.I.P.”

Sue Smith trained more winners for Hemmings than any other trainer. The likes of The Last Fling and Vintage Clouds – a winner at the Cheltenham Festival this year – were among the best of them.

Vintage Clouds bounced back to his best at Cheltenham in March to win at the Festival
Vintage Clouds bounced back to his best at Cheltenham in March to win at the Festival (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“Very sad news. A great owner but more importantly a great friend,” said Smith

Nick Alexander trains Lake View Lad, an emotional winner of a race named in memory of Many Clouds at Aintree.

“A gloomy damp morning here at Kinneston and a sombre atmosphere on the yard having learnt of the passing of Trevor Hemmings yesterday. I cannot thank him enough for his support, thoughts and prayers with his family and friends,” said Alexander.

Tim Easterby was another northern trainer to provide Hemmings with a Cheltenham winner, when Hawk High won the Fred Winter in 2014.

“We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Trevor Hemmings, a true gentleman and great support of racing. Our thoughts are with his family and friends,” said Easterby.

WellChild has ‘dream opportunity’ as Cheltenham Gold Cup partner

Children’s charity WellChild will take centre stage this week as the partner of jump racing’s most revered event, the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

WellChild announced its association with the Jockey Club in February following cider brand Magners’ decision to cease sponsorship of the Festival showpiece in December last year.

Rather than seeking an alternative sponsor, the Jockey Club instead chose to strike up a partnership with the Cheltenham-based charity.

This year’s race will therefore be run as the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup on Friday.

WellChild’s principal aim is to prevent seriously ill children from spending long spells in hospitals, instead supporting families in providing the necessary care from home.

The charity’s links with the sport can be traced back to ITV Racing anchor Ed Chamberlin, who has been an ambassador for WellChild since 2012.

He was drawn to support the organisation after witnessing life in an adjacent children’s ward when he himself was undergoing treatment for stomach cancer in Southampton Hospital.

“It’s probably eight years or more that Ed’s been involved,” said WellChild Chief Executive Colin Dyer.

“He came along to an event as a guest and he’d been quite ill himself – he was in hospital for a while, and he saw young people in hospital.

“WellChild’s big push is to make sure that children don’t spend months and months in hospital, and that they can be cared for at home. Ed vowed to himself that he would help, so when he heard of what we do it just touched a nerve with him – and he’s been involved ever since.

“He does our fundraising golf days, and a lot of the racing community started coming along to the things we did and getting involved.

ITV Racing's Ed Chamberlin during St Patrick’s Thursday of the 2017 Cheltenham Festival
ITV Racing’s Ed Chamberlin at the 2017 Cheltenham Festival (Mike Egerton/PA)

“When this opportunity came along and they wanted to do this community-charity link, because the racing world has worked alongside us for a few years and heard our messages at events, it just seemed like a natural fit.

“He is fantastic for us, really passionate and pro-active, and has helped us hugely – especially now that we find ourselves as partners of the Cheltenham Gold Cup.”

While fronting the ITV Racing coverage, Chamberlin is often joined by 20-time champion jockey Sir Anthony McCoy – who has undertaken a punditry role since retiring from the saddle in 2015.

McCoy, who won the Cheltenham Gold Cup on Mr Mulligan in 1997 and Synchronised in 2012, recently announced he too will be joining WellChild to act as an ambassador for the Festival.

“He’s just signed on the dotted line,” said Dyer.

“We find that with something as emotive as the work that WellChild does, when people see a chance to help, they want to take that chance.

“Hopefully Ed and AP will be able to pick that up in the coverage and shine a light on us and highlight what we do. They’re both such positive people as well, and so well respected.”

Sir AP McCoy on Synchronised after winning the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup
Sir AP McCoy on Synchronised after winning the 2012 Cheltenham Gold Cup (David Jones/PA)

While Dyer naturally hopes that a raised awareness of the charity’s work will result in an upturn in donations, an equally important aim is to reach out to families who are in need of help but may not have heard of the organisation.

“What we always find is that one of the real positives from spreading the word far and wide is that it brings families to us – it unearths people who may not realise that WellChild can support them,” he said.

“If it brings new families who are caring for seriously ill children to us, to help us support them, then that’s the biggest success we could possibly have from this.

“The second thing is that we are voluntary-funded charity, everything that we are able to do comes from the money that we have raised ourselves, so it’s being able to explain to people why we need their support – whether it’s a pound or a hundred pounds.

“There’ll be a lot of ‘text to donate’ messages, and people will be able to go to our website and donate – but having the platform to find more families who need our support is just a great opportunity for us.”

The charity relies on events to generate much of its income and has inevitably found that its calendar has been decimated by the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdowns.

“About 60 per cent of our income comes from events – and every event went, every single one,” added Dyer.

“Everybody’s in the same boat, and this partnership will hopefully help us fill that gap. It’s a dream opportunity.

“We’ve only known about it for about four weeks now, and it’s already been crazy. It’s created such a sense of positivity in and around the charity, just to have something like this.

“We’ve already seen the generosity of the racing community over the past few years, and I think filling that gap that Covid has left is going to be a really important element of this.”

As is customary for partnerships in high-profile races, WellChild branding will adorn the boards up the run-in for the big race, with the winning horse also set to wear a rug decorated with sketches drawn by some of the children the charity supports.

WellChild's branding will replace the Magners branding seen behind 2020 winner Al Boum Photo
WellChild’s branding will replace the Magners boards seen behind 2020 winner Al Boum Photo (Tim Goode/PA)

“This isn’t just a ‘stick-a-badge-on-it’ exercise for them,” Dyer said of the Jockey Club’s involvement with the partnership.

“They’ve been really creative and they clearly want to make a difference with this, which is brilliant to see.

“That was the real clincher for us, seeing how much the Jockey Club wanted to get behind this themselves to make that difference.”

ITV’s coverage of the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup drew an audience of 1.9 million, and the channel’s viewership has since risen as lockdown restricts most people to their homes – meaning a sizeable percentage of the population is likely to gain an awareness of the charity’s work after watching this year’s race.

“It is already a bit surreal to hear people saying ‘the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup’,” said Dyer.

“To have that ability to shine the light and be shown in people’s homes, which we wouldn’t ever really be able to do, it’s just a brilliant opportunity.”

‘Best of luck on Sunday Hollie’ – McCoy voices support for Doyle

Sir Anthony McCoy, racing’s only previous winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, has voiced his support for Hollie Doyle on the eve of Sunday’s show.

For McCoy, the coveted award came following an uninterrupted run as champion jockey and decades at the top of the sport, while wider recognition has come much earlier for Doyle.

In what has well and truly been a breakthrough year, she rode her first Royal Ascot winner, enjoyed a five-timer at Windsor and registered two winners on Champions Day – which included a first Group One success on Glen Shiel.

“Best of luck for Sunday, Hollie, in Sports Personality of the Year,” McCoy told Great British Racing.

“It’s been a great year, and you thoroughly deserve your nomination. I hope you have a great evening.”

Money continues to pour in on Doyle to win the award. When the nominations were first revealed she was a 33-1 chance, but she is now 3-1 second favourite behind odd-on shot Lewis Hamilton.

Coral’s David Stevens said: “Plenty of punters have won money backing Hollie Doyle’s many winners in 2020, and maybe those same fans have been backing her to be crowned Sports Personality, because her odds have fallen in a way we rarely see with this competition.

“When you consider AP McCoy had won numerous jockeys’ titles and a Grand National before he won this prize, it speaks volumes for how Hollie Doyle has captured the imagination of sports fans this year to even make the final six – and now she’s second favourite to win, even though she’s up against world champions like Lewis Hamilton, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Tyson Fury.

“If she does land the gamble on Sunday night it will be a nice early festive present for punters at the bookies’ expense. But we’ll be paying out with a smile – after all what’s more apt than Hollie at Christmas!”

Forumula One's Lewis Hamilton remains an odds-on favourite to beat Hollie Doyle to this year's BBC award
Forumula One’s Lewis Hamilton remains an odds-on favourite to beat Hollie Doyle to this year’s BBC award (PA)

Doyle was riding in France on Saturday – meaning she needed to gain special dispensation to attend the awards show because of Covid-19 protocols.

On cue as ever of course, she duly rode an early winner on Archie Watson’s Colonel Faulkner at Deauville.

The Best Exploiter of ‘The System’?

Jim Best wins the races..?

Jim Best wins the races..?

I wrote the below piece on 4th September 2014. But, in light of yesterday's verdict in the Jim Best case, it is both topical and prudent to revisit it, and consider - as well as the man himself - the wider implications, and what we as punters need to do to stay on the right side of such plots.


It was a contentious day at the office for British racing yesterday, as a plot unfolded in dramatic circumstances.

The race in question, a handicap hurdle at Southwell, looked a typically low grade Wednesday heat, the ten declared runners all being rated 100 or lower. Notably, trainer Jim Best was responsible for two of the ten. Tony McCoy was due to ride Into The Wind, the second favourite, and Rhys Flint would pilot apparent outsider, Saint Helena.

But, between declaration time on Tuesday and off time on Wednesday, a suspicious sequence of events transpired...

First, the more fancied of the two Best runners was withdrawn on account of the ground. Next, with McCoy now apparently without a ride in the race, Flint was 'jocked off' Saint Helena and the champion assumed the steering duties. All the while, market support for Saint Helena was strong, from before the notification of Into The Wind's absence right up until off time.

Saint Helena, a 9/1 shot in the morning, was eventually sent off the 11/10 favourite. As it transpired, she won, just, requiring all of McCoy's strength and race-riding nous to get the job done.

If you fail to see anything untoward in the above, that's probably because you're not party to Saint Helena's form history. A six year old mare, Saint Helena was good enough to win three times on the flat, off ratings as high as 79, and all on good to firm ground.

In her seven prior hurdle starts, she had run no closer to a winner than when a 69.75 length eleventh of twelve in her last race. That was a novice hurdle, and it was the latest bid from the trainer to get this horse handicapped.


The racing game in Britain and Ireland is predicated upon a few good horses running in stakes and conditions races, with the vast majority of the remainder running in weight for ability races once they've qualified.

The qualification criteria to receive an initial handicap rating are fairly straightforward, on the face of it at least:

In most cases a horse will have run on three occasions before being allocated a handicap rating. When handicapping a horse for the first time, it is necessary for there to be a clear correlation between the horse’s various performance figures and the handicap rating. Ideally from a handicapping perspective, the three qualifying runs would all be to a similar level, allowing a degree of confidence that the initial handicap rating is accurate.

If a horse returns performance figures of 60, 60 and 60, the Handicapper would almost certainly award an initial handicap rating of 60. The difficulty arises in three very different performance ratings, particularly in the case of a good run followed by two moderate performances. Generally the Handicapper will err on the side of caution with a handicap rating, giving emphasis to the best performance figure as long as that race looks solid.

Obviously, the official handicapper has a frequently horrific job in trying to nail form jelly to the ratings wall. And this was a case in point. Saint Helena, clearly a talented animal on the basis of her flat form on fast ground, had run seven times - four more than the minimum requirement - almost exclusively on soft and heavy, before being awarded an initial handicap rating.

Spot the difference between the win/placed flat form and the mark-seeking hurdles efforts. (Click the image to enlarge)

Saint Helena: Spot The Difference

Saint Helena: Spot The Difference

The British Horseracing Authority, via the on course stewards, called Jim Best in before the race, to explain the absence of Into The Wind. They then called him in after the race to explain the 'apparent' improvement in form of Saint Helena.

The released notes on that second 'chat' are thus:

The Stewards held an enquiry to consider the apparent improvement in form of the winner, SAINT HELENA (IRE), ridden by A P McCoy and trained by Jim Best, which had never previously been placed. They interviewed the trainer who stated that the mare, who had been a very buzzy type in the past, settled better today and had benefited from a break of one hundred and twenty-five days since her last run. He added that the mare was suited by the firmer ground on this occasion. Having heard his evidence they forwarded his explanation to the British Horseracing Authority so that the previous performances of SAINT HELENA (IRE) could be reviewed. The Stewards ordered the mare to be routine tested.

It is almost certainly true that Saint Helena was "better suited by the quicker ground" - after all, her best flat form was on quicker. Equally, she looks sure to have "benefited from a break of one hundred and twenty-five days since her last run" on the basis that she might have actually been trained for race fitness during that time.

The case has been referred to High Holborn, and we'll see what the beaks in town make of it.


An interesting story for a Wednesday in its own right, the Jim Best plot saga is actually a little older than 24 hours or so. Indeed, Best has multiple 'previous' for such coups, almost all with a matching fingerprint.

A quick 'system builder' query for Jim Best-trained, Tony McCoy-ridden horses running in handicap hurdles without a prior win for the trainer reveals a 47% win rate (15 from 32). Amongst this group of horses, all of which received the McCoy assistance for the first time, were the likes of:

6/08 Noble Minstrel  form F0775 - mark of 72 awarded - 58 days off - wins at 4/1

1/09 Rocky Ryan form 005 - mark of 90 awarded - 61 days off - wins at 15/8

6/13 Planetoid form 089F70 - mark of 85 awarded - 169 days off - wins at 5/6

8/13 Sugar Hiccup form 00070P - mark of 79 awarded - 239 days off - wins at 5/6

7/14 Money Money Money form 40P0 -mark of 80 awarded-250 days off-wins at 5/1

8/14 Kiama Bay form 09503 - mark of 104 awarded - 91 days off - wins at 7/4

9/14 Saint Helena form PP9P080 -mark of 82 awarded-125 days off - wins at 11/10

And the similarities don't end there.

Consider Planetoid. This was a horse that was due to be ridden by Mattie Batchelor, a Jim Best stable stalwart, but with a (seemingly) lamentable record of 0 wins from 71 rides for the yard.

What atrocious luck then to experience "car trouble" on the day of Planetoid's success, having ridden him on three of his unsuccessful prior starts. Lucky for connections, at least, that McCoy was there to take the spare mount. Ahem.

Here are the stewards' notes from Planetoid's win after interviewing the trainer about the apparent improvement in form:

The Stewards held an enquiry to consider the apparent improvement in form of the winner, PLANETOID (IRE), ridden by A.P. McCoy, and trained by Jim Best, which had never previously been placed. They interviewed the trainer who stated that the gelding had problems with his jumping last year and has been given a break in order to re-school him over hurdles. He further added that PLANETOID (IRE) was suited by this quicker ground and running for the first time in a handicap. Having heard his evidence they forwarded his explanation to the British Horseracing Authority so that the previous performances of PLANETOID (IRE) could be reviewed. The Stewards ordered the gelding to be routine tested.

And these are the stewards' notes after Sugar Hiccup's win:

The Stewards held an enquiry to consider the apparent improvement in form of the winner, SUGAR HICCUP (IRE), ridden by A.P. McCoy, and trained by Jim Best, which had never previously been placed. They interviewed the trainer’s representative who stated that the mare was suited by the faster ground and, having been off the course for 8 months, had been freshened up. Having heard his evidence they forwarded his explanation to the British Horseracing Authority so that the previous performances of SUGAR HICCUP (IRE) could be reviewed.

Finally, here's Money Money Money's post race stewards chat:

The Stewards held an enquiry to consider the apparent improvement in form of the winner, MONEY MONEY MONEY, ridden by A P McCoy, and trained by Jim Best, compared with its previous run at Fontwell on 13 November 2014 where the mare finished tenth of thirteen, beaten 110 lengths. They interviewed the trainer who stated that the mare had benefited from a break from racing and appeared to appreciate the better ground.


What it means for punters...

So a very clear pattern emerges to these Best 'job horses' and, in a racing jurisdiction so heavily based around the art of handicapping, it is a part of the punter's job to be aware of trainer behaviour. Jim Best is not the only exponent of mark manipulation. In fact, some higher profile handlers on the level - Luca Cumani and Sir Mark Prescott, for instance - are positively admired for their ability to 'get one ready'.

When betting in handicaps, punters must ALWAYS be aware of the material differences between today's race and a horse's recent efforts. That's where value lies, perhaps not in heavily gambled animals like Best's, but certainly with the smaller stables who are having a few quid on but passing serenely under the radar.

First time in a handicap always merits attention, especially when combined with a material change in circumstance, such as a step up in trip or markedly differing ground. A break between qualifying for a handicap rating and running in a handicap can also be a sign of expected improvement. After all, if a horse runs a week after qualifying for a mark, that doesn't leave a lot of time to get the beast fit, does it?

A drop in class can often help, as can to a lesser degree the fitting of headgear (especially a hood). These are considerations the smart bettor must make, and they are part of the game. Making those considerations in the microcosm of trainer patterns can be most instructive, and there are no Jim Best's in the list of 'most effective first time in a handicap hurdle after a break'.

No, sir. That list, which in truth probably never existed until now, contains four high profile National Hunt trainers: Nigel Twiston-Davies, Evan Williams, Anthony Honeyball, and Philip Hobbs. How many Class 5 Taunton handicap hurdles do you suppose they've carved up between themselves? And yet, these events pass largely without comment or question.

I guess the key difference is that Best's modus operandi is to take a proven flat performer and 'bugger about' with it to get the mark, whereas the jumps boys are dollying around in novice hurdles and bumpers beforehand. Which is worse, or better? I'm not sure.

What it means for the authorities...

The exaggerated game of cat and mouse between trainers and the official handicappers is one of great importance to the sport, both from an integrity, and from an interest and engagement perspective. And, the truth is that there is very little the authorities can do about things, as they stand.

Jim Best operated within the current rule set.

It is perfectly acceptable for a jockey change to occur when a better option becomes available due to a non-runner in the same race (cf. "25.3.5 the substitute Rider was declared to ride another horse in the same race but the horse is unable to run" from the Rules of Racing).

It is perfectly acceptable for a horse to be self-certificated on account of the ground, or indeed anything else, as long as the trainer does not breach a 15% of declarations threshold (cf. "8.3 For any Trainer, where the rate of non-runners in Jump races measured as a percentage of the Trainer's declarations in Jump races is 15% or more, the Authority may suspend the Trainer's ability to self-certify non-runners in accordance with Rule 97.3 for up to twelve months." from the Rules of Racing).

It is perfectly acceptable for a horse to 'apparently' improve markedly, as long as the trainer or his representative can explain the improvement after the race, should the local stewards deem it appropriate.

To borrow that hackneyed Dickens quote from, I think, Oliver Twist,

If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble,… “the law is a ass—a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience.

The BHA's eyes have been opened by experience. They are all too aware of the issue here. They spoke to Best both before and after the race; and they are due to call him in again in due course to discuss the matter further. (That said, they're still due to discuss the Planetoid run with him, fifteen months after the race. Perhaps they can discuss them, along with Sugar Hiccup, Money Money Money, and Kiama Bay, as a job lot... with the emphasis on the word 'job').

The key question for the BHA to answer themselves, rather than necessarily bring Best to book, is around the allocation of a handicap mark. It is usual practice for a horse to receive a mark after three runs, if not winning once or placing twice before that time. The handicappers already have discretion to await further evidence, and this discretionary power has been invoked in six of the seven cases mentioned above.

I am led to believe by the twitterati that Saint Helena's seven runs before a rating was allocated constitutes something of a record. But, while that insistence of further evidence is to be admired - and may be the solution to the problem ultimately, at least in part - it is unclear why the 'capper relented after seven inscrutable efforts.

It should be reasonable for the official handicapper to require as many runs as is necessary to give an opening mark or, alternatively, to give a deliberately cautious mark - to the tune of two stone, let's say - in agreement with the trainer. All trainers have a dialogue with the handicappers, and I imagine the next chinwag between David Dickinson, under whose remit most of the above cases fell, and Jim Best will be interesting...

Perhaps a horse should be initially required to run in three handicaps within x% of the race distance of those it raced in to qualify for a mark. That might make it more difficult for trainers to run horses over the wrong trip. Or perhaps a horse must run over the trip for which it is most obviously bred - with a percentage of latitude - prior to being awarded a mark.

These suggestions are somewhat left field, and I'd hate to see any of them introduced for the simple reason that they'd be a triumph of job creation, whilst most likely opening up new loopholes for trainers to figure out and subsequently exploit.

Nope, I think that whilst the governance of self-certification and the allocation of initial handicap ratings can - and must - be improved, the game can - and should - be allowed to continue largely unimpeded by further legislation.

We now all know the hallmarks of a Jim Best punt, so at the very least, the next time one is afoot, we can get involved!


p.s. what are your thoughts on this most contentious of issues? Leave a comment and let us know.