The Racing Post carried an interview with the legendary Lester Piggott over the weekend.
It was a terrific read and reminded us of Lester in his pomp. He was, of course, the outstanding jockey of his generation. We’ve recently spoken about AP McCoy as the flag-bearer for two decades in National Hunt racing but nowadays in Flat racing, who is the stand-out jockey?
The wider public have next to no rapport with the current crop of Flat jockeys. (Did the public in the 60s, 70s and 80s really take Lester to their hearts or did their ears only really prick up when he was sentenced to prison for tax evasion?)
The worriers point to Frankie Dettori as the most recognisable jockey in the sport – he appeared on Top of the Pops nearly 20 years ago. So what of now?
Well step forward Mr Ryan Moore. On Saturday at Newbury, Moore booted home just the FIVE winners.
He doesn’t do much media work, he seems to have a wariness about the press and he is unlikely ever to enter a Big Brother house.
Bookies hardly needed to over-egg the impact on their profits – punters were in rapture. Hold a photo on any city High Street of Ryan Moore and ask 100 random passers-by to name the sportsman.
Chances are you’ll be lucky if more than a handful recognise him. He doesn’t do much media work, he seems to have a wariness about the press and he is unlikely ever to enter a Big Brother house.
But Moore is the king of the current crop of jockeys – undoubtedly. His horsemanship is second to none and his key rivals – Richard Hughes, James Doyle, William Buick et al – will all acknowledge that Moore has the edge on the lot of them.
Critically, it’s not a mug-shot that brings home the bacon for punters; all they want is the best jockey on the best horses to ride the best of all. And on Saturday at Newbury under a beating sun and with roars crashing down from the grandstands as he brought home winner after winner, we were all reminded that Moore is currently king.
The Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes are the three races which constitute the Triple Crown, the holy grail of American thoroughbred racing but its been 37 years since Steve Cauthen secured this greatest of prizes aboard Affirmed.
Since ’78, a bewildering THIRTEEN horses have gone on to win the Preakness Stakes having taken the Kentucky Derby but have then failed at the third and final attempt at Belmont. More often than not, these horses have been returned at hideously short odds, as punters worldwide place their bets to be part of the dream.
On all 13 occasions, the bookies have escaped a hiding. And so on Saturday, as American Pharoah became the latest horse to turn the Preakness into a procession, the dream was rekindled yet again. American Pharoah is round about an even money chance to complete the feat, as hope springs eternal. The odds are for him, the history books are against him. But the dream will not fade until we know for certain.
Back here in the UK we have, of course, our very own Triple Crown with the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger forming a less fashionable but no less prestigious campaign for 3 year old colts.
Nijinsky was the last horse to win the Triple Crown for the legendary Vincent O’Brien and barely 3 years ago, the latest master of Ballydoyle, Aidan O’Brien sent out by Camelot on Town Moor at Doncaster to try to land his own piece of history. Any of us who were there that day in September 2012 will always remember it, but I doubt anyone will share my painful recollections.
As I sloped back home on the Saturday evening and the calls started coming in from my colleagues in Customer Services, I sensed there was a problem.
Did I lose a fortune backing the odds-on Camelot who could finish only second to the unheralded Encke? No I did not. Did I suffer an overwhelming anticlimax as it dawned on racegoers that another chance like this was unlikely to come round again for a generation, if at all? Not especially – although it was pretty deflating, I admit.
No, my own embarrassment came from a Morning Line interview I had done earlier in the day on Channel 4 when I had mistakenly suggested that anyone who backed Camelot to win would get their money back with Ladbrokes if the horse failed to win.
I’d neglected to list the small-print: money back as a free bet, loyalty cards required, specific Star signs only, all that kind of stuff. So as I sloped back home on the Saturday evening and the calls started coming in from my colleagues in Customer Services, I sensed there was a problem.
I fronted up as best I could and made my apologies to many punters and many colleagues. Sometimes there are no scape-goats in this game and you’ve got to take it on the chin and hold up your hands. I dropped a clanger. I’ve been more careful since then but I still shuffle a little uncomfortably when there’s talk of a Triple Crown, or a money-back special for that matter.
I’m going to avoid US racing for a while after last week’s no-show. I’m instead reverting back to the tried, tested and one-time successful formula of finding the winner of the weekend’s big betting race. Haydock’s Temple Stakes looks to be a hot-looking Group 2 with old rivals G Force and Sole Power locking horns yet again over the minimum distance. Preference is for Sole Power who seems to have been around forever but is still only an 8-year old and is believed to have started the season as well as ever. I’ve never been on the right side of the horse and had my fingers burned at Royal Ascot and York last term, but hope springs eternal and at 6/1 if the rain stays away he’s a huge play.