Sport Horse Racing

Wednesday 16 October 2019

AP shows even best can make wrong call

Richard Forristal

With 162 winners up, AP McCoy's quest to top his previous seasonal best tally of 289 continues unabated, but that cat of his must have got some kicking on Saturday night.

"I might get there if I keep riding at the third meeting on a Saturday," he mused of setting a new record when he hit 150 lately, "but we need some more good ones."

McCoy's point was simply that, right now, he is deprived of 'proper' horses to ride. His tongue was in his cheek when he said what he said, but he was only half-joking, having just ridden Binocular to another odds-on defeat in a Grade One days earlier.

A week later, he was back in the winner's enclosure at Chepstow when all eyes were on the Tingle Creek at Sandown. Then came Cheltenham this past weekend. On Friday, the 16-time champion had just one ride -- albeit a winner -- at Prestbury Park. The day before, with three to choose from, he elected to ride Sunnyhillboy over the ante-post favourite Quantitativeeasing in Saturday's December Gold Cup.

Jonjo O'Neill had exercised his powers of persuasion, and McCoy's booking prompted a gamble on his selection. You could nearly guess what happened next.

Sunnyhillboy never rose a gallop, as Quantitativeeasing flashed home under an inspired Barry Geraghty to bring Nicky Henderson's own Saturday drought to an end. Once the winds had changed, the Lambourn trainer and Geraghty went on to complete a big-race treble.

McCoy's frustration won't be eased much by the fact that he will be back aboard Quantitativeeasing next time, and his misjudgment was a reminder of how difficult it is even for riders of his calibre to call these things correctly.

On Friday, Denman's retirement brought to mind his famous triumph over Kauto Star in the 2007 Gold Cup, an outcome that prompted Ruby Walsh's withering response to Derek Thompson's inquiry live on Channel 4 as to whether he wished he had chosen differently.

Davy Russell has also recently found himself in the enviable but precarious position of having to choose between potentially high-class prospects. For all that, the Youghal man is renowned for being one of the most adept judges in the business; he doesn't always get it right either, Bog Warrior's Drinmore rout under his arch-rival Walsh no doubt a sore case in point for the current championship leader.

There are plenty other high-profile examples. Mick Kinane eschewed the 2002 Epsom Derby winner High Chaparral to ride the runner-up Hawk Wing; Carl Llewellyn overlooked the Grand National winner Bindaree the same year -- all of which only adds to the sense that finding good horses to ride isn't always the end of a jockey's problems. Quite often it is just the beginning.

Thornton in the wars

Robert 'Chocolate' Thornton suffered a broken arm in a fall at lowly Hereford yesterday. Riding Western Whiskey, which ironically unseated him at the same venue last month, Thornton took a nasty spill at the eighth fence and will be sidelined for several weeks.

Sole runs out of Power

Eddie Lynam's Sole Power finished ninth in the Hong Kong Sprint at Sha Tin yesterday morning. Bidding for a first win over six furlongs in the Group One, he showed up well but may not have fully seen the trip out.

Number of the week

23 Davy Russell's current lead over Ruby Walsh in the jockeys' championship.

Ride of the weekend

Johnny King gets the nod for his decisive handling of Powerstation at Navan on Saturday. The seven-pound amateur rider made the cagey 11-year-old's mind up for him in no uncertain fashion when he sent him on two-out.

Headed again at the last, Eamonn O'Connell's charge, which has been notoriously difficult to win with, might normally have downed tools.

However, King managed to rouse him once more to land the €15k pot, before the stewards gave him an inevitable two-day whip ban for his efforts.

Training performance

of the weekend

Michael Hourigan gets the nod after Crash left behind a fairly lifeless display on his seasonal bow to come good at Punchestown yesterday.

A horse that the Limerick handler reported to have frequent problems due to his enormous size, the six-year-old has now won a point-to-point, a bumper, a maiden hurdle and a beginners' chase.

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