Monthly Archives: December 2015

Last call for the Vautour rocket ship

Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour

Douvan, Faugheen and Vautour

Regular readers and twitter followers will know I believe that Vautour is a superstar. Saturday sees his first flash in the constellation inhabited by the brightest of our steeplechasers, and I expect him to emerge with a glow which will light the NH scene for the next two or three years, granted soundness.

Many thought the same as I do in the immediate aftermath of his JLT win where the atmosphere was closer to post-coital than post-race, such was the admiration for what had just been achieved. But a less than stellar performance at Ascot on his seasonal debut seems to have lost him many fans. What the fickle seem to forget is that Vautour’s master craftsman of a trainer, Willie Mullins, does not turn out perfectly primed horses every time. Their training regime is formed from the view through a riflescope fixed dead centre on the Cheltenham Festival.  In readying them for other targets, the ammo magazine is only as full as it needs to be.

His Ascot run was far from disastrous: it was no JLT, but he was hardly thrashed home by Ruby. His only other 2 runs in England have been at the Festival where he dotted up in the Supreme (all the more meritorious coming from a horse born to be a steeplechaser, not a hurdler). Then there was that sublime JLT victory where the true joy was in the wonder of what he had not unleashed in that wonderfully athletic display of pure power.

Outside of his three races in England, Vautour has been odds against just once, mopping up events mostly at long odds on with, I suspect, just a half-full magazine. Yes, he had a failure last Boxing day when beaten by Clarcam, but he was plainly not right. It took his trainer quite some time to get him to where he wanted him, and although he won in January, Mullins had to put a monstrous amount of work into him to get him spot on for the Festival

The 2015 prep taught Mullins just how hard he sometimes needs to be on this horse to get him firing all his rocket boosters, and I think he’ll come to Kempton in festival form, before being let down by his trainer then built up again for the Gold Cup.

Many doubters seem to question his stamina. Everything about the way he finished off the JLT (20 furlongs) says to me he gets 3 miles anywhere. I’m no student of breeding, but am told there is nothing in his bloodline which suggests he will not stay. His grandsire on his dam’s side is Dom Pasquini who sired Dom Alco who got stock like Neptune Collonges and Silviniaco Conti.

Had Vautour been confined so far to two miles – an Azertyuiop type – I could understand the doubts over the KG, but 2m 4f in a hot festival race where he cruises past the line and is still absolutely full of himself coming down the walkway…where is the reason for stamina doubts with this horse?

As to his jumping to the left, which he did more than once at Ascot, jockey and trainer say it is not an issue; that’s good enough for me.

Some time ago, I advised backing Vautour at 14/1 to land the King George/Gold Cup double; I can find nobody betting on that now, but astoundingly, Vautour can be backed at 7/1 for the Gold Cup, and I suggest you take some of that as well as betting him to win on Saturday. There’s plenty of 3/1 about and you should take that, as I think there will be money for him on the day and he might even start favourite.

As ever, the usual warning, ante-post betting means your cash is lost if your selection does not turn up. Also, keen as I am on this horse, I’ll only stake on him what I can afford to lose, and, if you decide to bet him, you should do the same.

Good luck and happy Christmas


Being AP: a review

AP dvd

The review is of the BluRay DVD which is on sale on Amazon for £12.99


The film’s producers have done a wonderful job in getting The Sun to declare Being AP ‘Enthralling’ and ‘Gripping’: it’s neither.

The ninety-nine-minute movie covers a year in the life of Anthony Peter McCoy as he pursues his 20th consecutive NH Jockeys’ Championship title. AP’s wife, Chanelle, engineers a potentially wonderful, unexpected twist halfway through when finally persuading her husband to retire at the end of the season. Unfortunately, director, Anthony Wonke could do little with this gift, and perhaps nobody could have.

Getting the most successful NH jockey in history to agree to have the cameras follow him for a year must have seemed a wonderful coup for the film’s backers. But in concentrating so heavily on the dedication that has brought such success, the makers manage to kill the drama, for what AP’s life boils down to is this: get up early, get in a car, go to the races. ride horses, come home, watch racing, go to bed, get up early, get in a car…

There is more. There has to be more. He’s a quick-witted man, a kind man, who visits sick children in hospital, who attends parties, who has a caring mother and father and siblings, a strong and dedicated wife, and two young children. The way he has lived his life has affected countless people, yet we hear from so few of them.

Dave Roberts, his agent appears a few times and we watch him at dinner with AP and Chanelle. Dave is there on the last day to walk in with AP before the great man dismounts for the final time. But we don’t get to hear in any detail what Roberts thinks of him. AP’s parents feature only fleetingly. We learn nothing about his early life. There are numerous ‘voices off’, which are never identified.

We see AP being examined by doctors. He talks then of his injuries. The doctors offer no insights. A masseuse/physio attends him at home and the major question of interest from her is ‘have you been colouring your hair?’.

The theme of the film is set from the start, and dominates throughout. AP believes he can ride 300 winners in the season. Cameras follow him from track to track, and a graphic shows his progress. Then a big injury punctures not only his lung, but his chances of making the 300. A busted collarbone hangs creakily over the damaged lung (neither stopped him riding that day, something of an embarrassment for the BHA’s medical procedures, I’d have thought). It’s a devastating blow for him. He says so in different ways.

At one point, he touches his collarbone and says, (I paraphrase) “I feel like bashing this off the wall again and again to punish it for stopping me riding three-hundred winners. It’s this that’s weak, not me!”

Now, I thought, surely they will wheel on a psychologist or two. AP has effectively been talking, with serious intent, about self-harming. He might not have seen it that way, nor might others, but those who self harm often do so in an effort to punish what is they see as their torturer, to rid themselves of it.

At another point AP says, “Twenty titles and four-thousand winners will take some beating. Nobody will do it for a while. I’ll probably be dead by then and at least I won’t have to worry about it.”

Why were these moments allowed to pass unquestioned? What is it that drives a human being to such excess? Fear. Fear. We heard that mentioned a few times. Fear of no longer being champ. Fear of a record being attainable by someone other than McCoy.

What sparked this fear? How was it fed, and who did the feeding. And why? Was it a fear he would have liked to be rid of? If not, why not?

This was a wonderful opportunity to analyse a man with a rare terror, a terror that fuelled an ambition that overcame fierce pain again and again and again (aside from the overhot baths, the decades of starvation, the family arguments).

That opportunity was allowed to canter past like so many of the slowmo shots in this film. And it suffered in this department too. Perhaps permission to use some Channel 4 footage or even their camera positions was never sought. Maybe it was refused. But the remoteness of the racetrack coverage, even in the changing room, added to the overall impression that the film was being made, if not surreptitiously, then with a level of objectivity bordering on disinterest.

And I found the background music intrusive much of the time, and inappropriate. But that’s a minor flaw in a major portrait that never quite comes into proper focus.

Whether anyone else could have made a better job of it, who knows. There might have been restrictions on the producers that have not been made public.

So, racing fans will enjoy it at some level, but I suspect the overall feeling will be one of disappointment. Gripping it ain’t. Nor is it enthralling. In a way, it was sad. Not sentimental weepy movie sad, it just left me feeling sorry for AP. Many will reserve their sympathy for those around him and his admitted selfishness, but I felt for him in the way I would for a lost child, one who will never find his way home.

Warned Off is free just now as an eBook. It’s a mystery thriller set in the world of National Hunt racing and has over 100 five-star reviews on Amazon UK. You can download it for your kindle here, and for other devices here.

Warned Off eBook (Large) (1)