Tom Scudamore gives his thoughts on AP McCoy’s decision to retire
I was in the Newbury weighing room when the news broke that AP had announced his retirement when coming back in on Mr Mole. To be honest it wasn’t a surprise that he was retiring this season as you knew with every passing year it was getting closer. I mean he’s 41 in the summer and he’s about to complete twenty championships so it wasn’t a shock. It was just how he announced it that surprised me. I just thought he’d turn up one day ride a winner and say that’s it, as Dad did and as Francome did.
It was a strange old day Saturday. It was fantastic racing, a really good day’s racing, and for that announcement to suddenly happen made it an extraordinary day. At the time I was thinking why are you announcing it in this way, why the long goodbye? If you’re going to do it, do it. Either you’re retiring or you’re not. But on this occasion to be fair to him, what it’s done for Racing over the last week has been fantastic. The amount of people who’ve gone to the likes of Kelso yesterday just to watch him or to Ayr earlier on in the week has probably been considerable following his announcement. The reception he got at Leopardstown on Sunday was incredible. So having been a little bit surprised at his decision to announce his retirement months in advance, I now think he’s made the right decision to do it this way, as it will be fantastic for Racing.
He has been wonderful for the sport and will continue to be. Yes I’ll miss him but you miss everyone when they leave the weighing room. I miss Joe Tizzard since he stopped riding because he is one of my best mates. There’ll be a hole left when he stops but everyone retires. Peter Scudamore retired, John Francome retired, Richard Dunwoody retired, and Racing will go on. It will feel a bit strange for the first few meetings but for example when someone’s hurt you notice it for a few days and then you almost forget they’re gone and you move on very quickly. So I don’t think he’ll leave a void in the weighing room, but where he will leave a void is the fact that he is the one jockey in my lifetime that has transcended the sport. John Francome did to a certain extent and maybe Dad did too a little bit and Dunwoody too. But John, Dad and Dunwoody would never have won a Sports Personality of the Year Award. I mean Dad rode 200 winners one year and I think was 23rd on the list that year. Everybody knows who Tony McCoy is. If you ask people for three jockeys they’ll probably say Frankie Dettori, Lester Piggott and Tony McCoy in that order. He’s the only jump jockey that’s ever done that, and that’s where the void will be left.
In terms of the opportunity created by his retirement, I’ll make no bones about it, the jockey’s title is something I’d love to win. I’ve been trying for the last five or six seasons. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it, and I will move heaven and earth to try and make it happen. But it’s the same as any other year. I’ll just try and ride as many winners as I can. It’s the sort of thing you can talk about, but you’ve got to go and do it. So I’d rather just let everyone else talk about it and I’ll just go and do it. That’s the way I’ll approach it and I will be doing everything I can to win it. But so will Richard Johnson, so will Jason Maguire and so will STD (Sam Twiston Davies). And if Barry gets the JP McManus job or whoever else gets it, they will be in a position to do it too. There are a lot of contenders. All I do know is that I’m in a position where I might have that opportunity.
Up at Haydock AP is riding Monbeg Dude for my brother in the Grand National Trial. He’d appreciate any rain they get up there but I don’t think the new Haydock really suits him since they made it that little bit sharper. Having said that I’m not sure it’s as strong a race as it has been in years gone by. He’s got a chance but he probably needs a more galloping track than Haydock. The old Haydock would have suited him well but I’m not sure the new Haydock plays to his strengths. You know what you’re going to get from him. He’s been running fantastically well this season and on his form and the way he’s held it this year he deserves to be one of the favourites.
Broadway Buffalo is a bit in and out. He has good form around Haydock when he won the Tommy Whittle and not so good the next time when he ran at Wetherby. If he bounces back to that Haydock win he’d be in there with a shout but this looks a stronger race than the Tommy Whittle. He’s now taking on proper National type horses in Benvolio and Monbeg Dude who have been there and done it. He’s an improving youngster but he’s got to step up on what he’s shown so far. He has an each way chance but needs to improve again to win it. He has one thing on his side and that’s time.
I ride Ainsi Fideles at Ascot in the Reynoldstown at 2.05pm. He won five races in the summer and then came second at Cheltenham in November and has had a break since then. He seems fine and I think three miles will help him. Ascot doesn’t usually get too soft so the better ground round there will suit him rather than say being at Sandown or Haydock. On hurdles form he has it to find with Deputy Dan and Virak but he’s the top rated chaser going in there. Yes you could argue that he’s the top rated chaser because of his summer form but I was pleased with his run behind Splash Of Ginge at Cheltenham. Splash Of Ginge has come out and proved he’s just as good over fences as he was over hurdles winning a good handicap at Cheltenham. Deputy Dan hasn’t set the world alight over fences and Virak is beatable. If you’d asked me six weeks ago would Ainsi Fideles win a Reynoldstown I’d be saying he’d probably be struggling because it can be such a strong race. But this year for whatever reason it doesn’t look the strongest renewal. So his form puts him bang there.
Clondaw Knight has gone up 13 pounds for winning at Wetherby last time. He’s improving and he’s taking a step forward, and he’s been gradually stepping up in trip, so hopefully that will be the key to him. But a 13 pound rise is a lot. Having said that he won well last time and he is a young improving horse. It will be a big test for him tomorrow in the 2.40pm with the likes of old stalwarts like Hey Big Spender and co. He’s ready for the step up in class I just hope the handicapper hasn’t overreacted.
Unique De Cotte won the boys race at Cheltenham in November with Kieren Edgar on board that day, and was then fifth at Newbury in the qualifier. He now steps back to 2m 3f in the 3.15pm. I sat on him during the week and he seems well. It probably wasn’t the strongest of races which he won at Cheltenham and he made hard work of doing it, but hopefully he has a chance. It’s a tough race. We’ll see how we go but he seems in good order with himself and he hasn’t had a lot of racing so there should be some improvement to come from him.
With Cheltenham just a few weeks away of course I’m aware of it, particularly when riding horses having their last runs before the Festival, but I’d be lying if I said I sat at home every night imagining what’s going to happen at Cheltenham. What concerns me at the moment is Ascot today and the meetings coming up in the next few days and the rest will look after itself. You can only really deal with one day at a time. I have an idea of what I might be riding and the horses that are possibly going there, just as all the boys in the weighing room will have, particularly if we have choices to make and you’re having to weigh it up in your mind. But it’s only really when you’ve got five minutes to yourself that you think like that. I’m certainly not waking up every day counting down the days to Cheltenham. It’s not quite the same for us as it is for punters and fans. To some extent it’s four days that are just the same as any other meeting.