horse racing

What we learned from the weekend: 7th & 8th February…

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…


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But if you can’t be bothered reading that then all you need to know is that if you drop the code NTF in the promotional code box when purchasing the 2015 version of the Cheltenham Festival Betting Guide you get the book for £11.95 instead of £14.95. Lovely stuff.

You can order the book here >>>

Happy Punting – Ben (NTF)

*Stats sourced from the excellent Proform Professional Database

Proform Racing | The professional Formbook

17 responses to “What we learned from the weekend: 7th & 8th February…”

  1. For the first time in ages I disagree with you !! Shock Horror, I think Coneygree should go for the GC, he’s fit, in form and it’s a very open event this year. The RSA looks like it will be the usual tough tough race and I just think they will never get him better than he is now. Go for it Bradstocks !. However for what it’s worth I don’t think he will win it.

    • Hi Steve

      Nothing like Cheltenham to make people disagree!!

      I just think it would be madness to send a novice to the Gold Cup off the back off only 3 starts, could well ruin him.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  2. Now, young feller, me lad, less of this ‘greatest who ever lived’ malarkey, have you never heard of Fred Winter? Just one candidate from jump racing’s Hall of Fame to challenge A.P. for the podium.
    20 years of indoctrination have done their work 🙂
    Now I’ve taken the mick, I can be serious and say that Carlingford carried my money for the Gold Cup before the w/e’s win, so I’m smirking about that too!

    • Hi Chris

      Fred Winter? Is that the bloke that sponsors that juvenile handicap at the Festival? Must be well loaded innit to be able to sponsor a race!!

      In all seriousness it can be tricky comparing riders/trainers from different era’s but I’ll always be on the side of McCoy, he is the greatest, hands down.

      Good work with Carlingford, he’s put himself bang in the Gold Cup picture after Sunday.

      Ben (NTF)

  3. Last year’s Gold Cup wasn’t one of the best and both the winner and runner up were beaten last weekend in the Irish Hennessy. Those Gold Cup aspirants all seem to keep beating eachother. Silviniaco Conti looks well ahead of the rest this season but the ones that emerge from the remainder of the field might well be the younger stars – Many Clouds, Road to Riches and Coneygree. I’d like to see Coneygree run in the Gold Cup (remember that Silviniaco didn’t run a great race when 4th last year). I know he’s a novice, but he’s going to have an OR in the mid 160s and he’s still improving. It’s a tough call for the trainer but he knows that there’s no guarantee that the horse will be fit and well next year – so I would be tempted to gave a go. As I write this Ladbrokes are offering a huge 16/1 Coneygree for the Gold Cup but they have him as a miserly 3/1 fav for the RSA. My suspicion is that they believe that the trainer has already made his mind up.

    • Hi Alan

      I’m just never a fan of making the big jump in class so early in a horse’s development stage, it’s markedly different winning something like the Denman Chase to the Gold Cup (for a novice) but given a standard program this year he could well be a King George and Gold Cup winner next year.

      As you say though I suspect the trainer may have already made his mind up anyway.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

      • I’m SO pleased that the decision to run Coneygree proved to be the right one. Well done Mark Bradstock for taking a decision that many thought was foolish. Coneygree’s front running was a delight. I don’t suppose that many people are saying it was the wrong decision now!

  4. Speaking from my pocket I hope Coneygree goes for the GC as I have a nice AP on the young master for the RSA. Speaking from my head I’d not be running Coneygree in the GC as I’m pretty sure that novices have an awful record in the race. I’m sure Ben will have the exact records I can’t recall a winner maybe Golden Miller was.

    • Hi Ian

      Last novice to win was Captain Christy in 1974. Not sure the exact amount that have lined up as novices in recent years but it’s just not a race for them, especially not a 3 raced novice (like Coneygree).

      The Young Master seems to have been forgotten about a little in the run up to Cheltenham, look forward to seeing where he turns up, he’s an exciting prospect.

      Ben (NTF)

      • I’ve mentioned before that was at cheltenham when he won and I decided then before the Badger Ales etc that he was good enough for the festival. Hope they avoid the 4m not just for my AP bet but thats too much too soon for a 6yo in my book

        66/1 for the 2016 Gold Cup with Betfred looks worth a fiver!

  5. Conegree GC ( poor year/ soundness issues go whilst fit)
    A P McCoy ( None better)
    R Johnston 2nd best ever
    Shanahans Turn will not be winning at Cheltenham.

    • Hi James

      Yes Shanahans Turn has turned out a bit disappointing now. I thought he was going OK in the Irish Hennessy but he quickly dropped back through the field about 3 from home. Back to drawing board with that one.

      Ben (NTF)

  6. AP McCoy the best there is, the best there was, the best there ever will be…

    Like you Ben as long as I have been interested in horse racing there has been AP McCoy but there is only so much punishment a human body can absorb as someone that used to box I can attest to that!

    Whereas he used to bounce off the ground and keep going he has had a fair bit of time off with injury this season and all those previous injuries over the years add up.

    He is going out at the top and in one piece as it should be. No one would like to see him taken out of the sport with a career ending injury like Adrian McGuire or Mick Fitzgerald.

    A stat to aim for any aspiring young jockey out there – to even equal AP’s amazing 4000 winners a jockey is going to have to average 200 winners a year for 20 years!! That stat alone underlines AP’s total dominance of the National Hunt

    • Hi Sean

      With you on the ‘only so much punishment…’ angle. I think it was noticeable this season when he came back from one of his injuries and then took a few more days off with the same injury saying he thought he came back to early (or something similar). That’s very un-McCoy like and a clear indicator that his recover times are just that much longer now.

      He was always going to go out at the top, he was never going to be one that let his career fizzle out, I guess we are all maybe just a little shocked it is this year. Thought he would maybe have another year or two in the tank.

      Cheers – Ben (NTF)

  7. I think the faces in the weighing room is set to change dramatically over the next few years when you look at the top jockeys ages. Tony McCoy is 40 (41 in May when he retires)

    Richard Johnson the most like heir to the throne is 37

    Barry Geraghty and Ruby Walsh are both 35 and it is telling how much Ruby has scaled back his workload since relocating back to Ireland after a series of long absences with injuries over the last couple of seasons.

    • Agree with that Sean. A few of the top guys are ticking alone on the age front.

      Fehily is another one. Arguably at the top of his game right now but he will be 40 at the end of this year.

      Time for the young whipper snappers to make their presence felt…

      Ben (NTF)

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