Blog Archives

In praise of jockeys

I can’t let the Festival week end without noting the general workaday heroism of our jockeys, both jumps and flat. They often come in for a lot of stick (excuse the pun) and if you don’t ride you can have no idea of the physical demands made on their bodies every day, and that’s not including kicks and falls and wasting to make weight.

For my money, these guys are the toughest athletes we have. Early starts, long journeys, seven day weeks on little food – no wonder Andrew Tinkler tweeted this morning that if he’d been lucky enough to win the one million that one of Nicky Henderson’s stable staff did this week on a yard five-timer, Tinkler would be straight off to Heathrow – not riding work the next morning as indeed the lottery winner was (full story here).

Anyway, props to Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy for yesterday; not just for having the wisdom to preserve the beloved Kauto Star after nine fences jumped, nor indeed the looks like you won’t even be placed ride on Synchronised to lift the Gold Cup. No, massive, massive respect for this brief exchange, redolent with meaning, between the two friends and competitors during the running of the Gold Cup, reported in the Racing Post.

Ruby said: “I was thinking about pulling up when
AP [McCoy] said ‘if I were you I’d be pulling up’.

The rest is history.

From the Mirror: AP with Synchronised ~ what a lovely Sadler's Wells face

On another cockles-of-my-heart note, Paul Nicholls is parading Kauto Star, Big Buck’s and Rock on Ruby through Ditcheat this lunchtime, in that order. Kauto Star in front, where he belongs.

On wishes and horses

This blog was named for horses like this fellow.

Happy Boxing Day indeed.

Don’t Push It

I haven’t read any printed matter on AP’s Grand National win yet, so I am hoping my take is original, but somehow I doubt it.

Yesterday morning, having backed my long-term fancy State of Play I considered the well-made point that always backing AP to break his National duck was a bet that would eventually pay out. AP being what he is, a punter’s favourite, was hardly ever likely to dot up on a big outsider and the fact that yesterday’s ride entered the National Market at 50/1, but had contracted to 10s by the off was due to the McCoy factor.

As it happened I forgot to back him, partly because I couldn’t remember which horse he had finally opted for and partly because I was not that convinced in the rhetoric. Although my own choice could not, and probably won’t ever win, I can still rejoice with all true NH fans that our greatest jump jockey has finally shoved that monkey off his back.

This was a triumvirate of broken National maidens yesterday. Jonjo and JP, the trainer and owner, also enjoyed their first ever National win. No wonder there was a bit of salt water shed.

And how interesting, to me anyway, that the horse (who according to Jonjo couldn’t really win) was named in an exact opposite to how AP approaches riding, and one assumes, his whole life. AP is always pushing it. He pushes himself and he pushes his horses. He even pushes those around him. One of my favourite AP anecdotes is this after his mate Ruby Walsh took a bad fall at the Paddy Power Open meeting in November 2008:

“They took a scan of the spleen. The surgeon said it was ruptured but he wanted to keep me in for 10 days of observation to see if it might start to heal itself. I’m thinking, ‘Jesus, this is too sore to ever heal. Just take the f****r out. McCoy says, ‘Ten days! Ruby can’t be waiting that long. You should rip it out.’ The surgeon says he can’t just take out a spleen. But McCoy insists, ‘Take it out.” Walsh describes how pal Tony McCoy helped his recovery from that Cheltenham injury.

Ruby was back in 5 weeks flat to ride Kauto Star to victory in the King George. Ruby also took a nasty yesterday from Celestial Halo and missed the National. Maybe it’s just as well AP was otherwise engaged and couldn’t instruct Ruby’s doctor to do likewise with the arm.

You’d have to guess he’d be a hard man to live with, but he is a genius in the saddle and that doesn’t come easy. I don’t always love his rides, so insistent is he at times, but no-one could deny him his National win forever and at 35 I am glad he’s done it.

Maybe Tony, just maybe, you can relax a little bit now?

Cracking a rare smile. Don't Push It doesn't share the sentiment

Denman, the Aon and the room with no view

I was born in Newbury, at least that’s what it says on my passport. My mother says it was Thatcham which is now a sprawling sink housing estate as far as I can see. Any road up, I am predisposed to like the place and when I’ve been racing there I’ve done alright. If I was there today I might be joining my friend Tagalie and “watching” the Aon Chase from the toilets.

This is the bind of being not just a punter, but a horse enthusiast, or pony-mad middle-aged woman (in my case, NOT hers!) in that when a horse you really, really like runs your stomach goes. Well not literally, but nearly! So last November she was so concerned as Denman made his post-fall comeback she hid in the loos, where I believe there is commentary. When we discussed tomorrow (last week) it went a bit like this:

“There doesn’t seem much point paying to go racing and then staying in the loos for the big race”

“Hmmm. No”

“But then it is obviously lucky for The Tank, so now I will have to go and watch it in the ladies again”

Such is the burden of the real racing fan. Rituals and routines.

With the faithful doing their bit the only discernible difference today for The Tank is that we have one AP McCoy on board. This is what Ruby Walsh had to say for his benefit about Denman this morning; one presumes the unfortunate Sam Thomas will remain tight-lipped.

From the RP site:

Walsh, speaking on Channel 4’s The Morning Line, said: “Denman is in a better frame of mind than when he ran here in November. He is fresh and keen.”

The jockey added:”As far as the jumping goes he is bombproof. He is dead straightforward to ride; have him in the first two, then if he’s pulling you’re going too slow, and if you’re pushing you are going to fast.”

So with Ruby’s advice dispensed and Tagalie esconced in the ladies I am touching wood, crossing my fingers, stalking black cats, looking for lost pennies and hoping for a good show.

Plenty of wood for touching purposes

NB Had an outbreak of uncontrollable commaitis this morning. Can’t be helped, no rude remarks from the editing frat please 😉

Ruby, Tony, Ruby!

Ruby and Twist Magic = Poetry in Motion

I did think Twist Magic might win yesterday, but I didn’t imagine quite the fifteen length romp that it was and that was due to the man in the saddle Ruby Walsh. His post-race analysis said it all: that the horse came out of his hands down the back stretch and he let him go on. He also said on a two miler round Sandown = no better feeling when riding a horse. I thought I saw a most intelligent and intuitive ride there, he knew the horse could make it and he felt the horse go on and let him do so. Twist Magic was enjoying it out there and Ruby facilitated that. There are so many times I have seen horses hauled back from a prominent position so that they may better challenge at a more opportune moment. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t (usually when I have backed them!). It takes real ken to let a horse bowl along in front, on that ground, up that hill and Ruby has it. The feeling he mentioned of the horse coming out of his hands is a magical experience. To me, it means the moment when the back end comes underneath the horse, you are no longer lolloping along flat and long, the weight of the head is no longer in your hands and you are feel as if you are almost floating.

Make no mistake, these guys are in heaven when they are riding horses that win like that. That’s why they put up with the mud in their faces, the wasting, riding in the rain, the early starts in the freezing cold and travelling miles to finish out the back or to end up going to hospital in an ambulance.

A travesty, once again, that our own Tony McCoy (or Ruby himself) is not on the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. Maybe, when he’s riding horse like Somersby today, he doesn’t care. Nor should he.