Well…um…AP McCoy only went and bloody announced his retirement!!
In the long history of our sport that one moment on Saturday, in the aftermath of an eventful Game Spirit Chase, has to go down as one of the defining ‘where were you when…‘ moments.
I’ve personally known nothing else in my time as a racing fan and punter. Since I was a young 14/15 year old sneaking into the bookies in the north-east of Scotland McCoy has been the champ. Twenty years of one man head and shoulders above all others. He’s all I’ve ever known as champion jockey. For the full twenty years I have been making National Hunt racing part of my daily life HE has been the daddy. The big kahuna. The king of the castle. Now he won’t be. And that’s kind of exciting!
Sure I will miss him. How couldn’t you, it’s AP McCoy. He’s the greatest jump jockey that’s ever lived. He may not be the most talented jockey but by god he’s the greatest. The numbers back that up. What he does on the race track back that up. But his retirement opens things up to a new era. An era without McCoy. 200+ winners a season up for grabs! Someone to come along and say “cheers McCoy, but now it’s time for me to dominate!“. And that’s exciting.
There’s a high chance we will never see another like him in our time but you know what I really hope we do! I hope there is some young rider out there who looks at what McCoy has done and goes “I want some of that, I want to be BETTER than McCoy!“. Imagine that. In a few years time some rider we, at this moment in time, know nothing of, have never heard of, comes along and starts stonking in the winners. Dominates the conditionals title and then starts gunning for the main title the following season.That would be exciting. It’s a high bar McCoy has set, it will be bloody tough to clear it, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try!!
Anyway, that’s enough on McCoy for now, there was plenty else going on this weekend so lets crack on with this weeks installment of ‘What We Learned from The Weekend’…
What we learned from the weekend: 7th & 8th February…
1. Once again Paul Townend dominated one of the supporting cards on this side of the Irish Sea…
Last weekend it was Ffos Las, this weekend it was Warwick (with a flying visit to Bangor on Friday thrown in for good measure).
Paul Townend has been Ruby Walsh’s ‘understudy’ at the Mullins yard for a few seasons now and he’s done a fine job there, picking up a multitude of graded races when Ruby isn’t available or even when he is riding the supposed second-string.
Recently, however, he has been allowed to go on his travels during the weekend and boy has he grasped that opportunity with both hands!
Last Friday and Saturday he had seven rides over here (one at Bangor and six at Warwick) he won with FOUR of those mounts and placed on two others! That’s impressive in anyone’s book.
Add that to his record from the previous weekend at Ffos Las and you get the following figures…
6/12 | 50% S/R | +£34.57 BFLSP – Win & Place 10/12 | 83% S/R (100% above expectation)
Those are the only 12 rides he has had over here in 2015!
Even more impressive, perhaps, is that only two of them have been Willie Mullins ‘steering jobs’. You could almost accept those figures if he was riding a batch of Mullins hot-pots who were expected to beat up softer opposition. But that’s not the case. Far from it. Only TWO have been for Mullins (he won on both of those).
Most of his rides have actually been for Rebecca Curtis (seven rides – three wins, three places) and that in itself is very interesting. A quick look at the stats tell me that the jockey that rides most of the Curtis string is none other than Mr AP McCoy! He retires at the end of the season (if you hadn’t heard) and suddenly there are a lot of Curtis horses needing a jockey. A lot of the McCoy/Curtis partnership will be down to the JP McManus connection, but not them all. Anyway what’s to say Townend won’t be snapped up by McManus as the number one green and gold hoops wearer? Maybe Townend is sick of being number two to Ruby’s number one. Maybe he want’s his time in the spotlight. Hmmm…
That, obviously, is just speculation on my part and while that’s all good and well let’s pull this back to the facts. The facts are Townend has been dominating the weekend action away from the main tracks. But we shouldn’t really be surprised by that. He is a mighty fine jockey and I’m sure he has learned plenty from being in the shadow of Ruby Walsh. When he bothers to make the trip over here we NEED to take note.
One word of warning about Townend, however; he has only ever ridden ONE winner at Cheltenham.
Not just at the Festival in March but at Cheltenham in general.
His stats around Prestbury Park are…
1/59 | 1.5% S/R | -£48.40 BFLSP – Win & Place 10/59 | 17% S/R (72% below expectation)
*51 of those rides have been at the Festival
It’s fair to say he hasn’t quite mastered the undulations of Cheltenham just yet.
He may be riding high at the minute but the figures tell us that Cheltenham has proven to be a bit of a blind spot for him so far.
Keep an look out for the Paul Townend raids at the lesser tracks…
2. Josses Hill once again failed to deliver the goods…
1/2 fav for a graduation chase and he gets turned over by a relatively exposed performer (Third Intention) who had never won right-handed before and was giving the Henderson horse the best part of a stone!
He simply does not impress at his fences. He almost jumps them as if they scare him, as if they are electrically charged, giving plenty of them too much air and being simply untidy at the others. He clearly has an engine and he’s clearly got class and that kept him in Friday’s contest but he just hasn’t impressed in his new discipline.
I don’t want to be making excuses for him…but I’ll at least try and give him a little bit of the benefit of doubt…give his supporters a bit of hope…
Could it be he doesn’t like going Right-Handed? He is now 21222 going Right-Handed whilst he has form of 1211 Left-Handed. His one victory Right-Handed was a bumper. That’s slightly less hassle for a horse that prefers the other way round.
He hasn’t been beaten out of sight going Right-Handed and there isn’t anything obviously noticeable but at the levels he operates at they are working with fine margins. It doesn’t take much between victory and defeat. It could well be that he is more comfortable going the other way round.
He has also been beaten on both tries over further than 2m 0.5f (22) but I wouldn’t yet be marking him down as a non-stayer. I would certainly keep an eye on it though as it could be another reason for his two chase defeats, both of them have been over further than 2m 0.5f.
Essentially he is taking a very long time to get to grips with the chasing game. He’s becoming very frustrating for his supporters. But he has talent. He has an engine. He is still potentially very good. And the problem may not be the horse’s. It may be the trainers. Henderson has not recorded a chase winner since I highlighted his poor seasonal record with chasers a couple of weeks ago. The Henderson chasers are STILL under-performing (3/55 since the end of October).
At the time of writing it still looks like Josses Hill is Arkle bound. The two miles will suit. The Left-Handed track will suit. But will Henderson have rejuvenated his chasers by then?
Josses Hill and Henderson need to seriously buck their ideas up before season’s end…
3. The Cheltenham Gold Cup picture just got even more interesting…
Saturday: Coneygree demolished his more experienced opposition in the Denman Chase.
Sunday: Carlingford Lough showed his standard resolution to dig deep under AP McCoy and land the Irish Hennessy.
Both horses now feature prominently in the Gold Cup betting. Both horses add immense intrigue to an already mouthwatering contest.
Of the two I would be keener on the chances of Carlingford Lough over the novice Coneygree. In fact I don’t think Coneygree should be going for the Gold Cup at all. It can be a rough race and Mark Bradstock’s novice is still learning his trade, that’s why he is called a novice. The Gold Cup really is no place for a novice.
The Denman Chase was relatively straightforward for Coneygree. He wasn’t really meeting with top class 3 milers there. He was given his own space out front. He had his preferred soft underfoot conditions. He was getting weight from most of the others. It was a fine piece of placement from his trainer.
Running him in the Gold Cup would be a terrible piece of placement. Unlike the Denman Chase things won’t be run to suit him and conditions are unlikely to be in his favour. Let him complete his apprenticeship and run him in the RSA, it’s the sensible option and would give his career the correct trajectory to gun for the Gold Cup in 2016. Don’t ruin a potential star by gunning him for the top too soon.
Carlingford Lough, on the other hand, his time is now.
He very much reminds me of 2012 Gold Cup winner Synchronised in that he has his own method of getting from A to B and whilst it may not be pretty it certainly works (you don’t win 3 Grade 1’s and a Galway Plate without jumping plenty fences!). Like I said about Synchronised at the time if this one is within reaching distance of the pack coming down the hill he will be staying on back up the hill as strong as anything else, possibly stronger.
On the trends front Carlingford Lough makes for a solid fit and I would expect him to be bang there when I pull together my trends for NTF members the evening before the Gold Cup. He wouldn’t be bang on with the Dosage stats but he isn’t a negative on that score and I wouldn’t be chucking him out of my thinking based on that angle alone.
He should also have the bonus of that retiring dude in the saddle! And for a horse like Carlingford Lough that is certainly no bad thing!
Can Carlingford Lough provide McCoy with his third Cheltenham Gold Cup success…
…and talking of Cheltenham…
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Happy Punting – Ben (NTF)
*Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Professional Database