Winter Festival Horse Racing By Sir Anthony McCoy

I Think Don Cossack Will Win The William Hill King George

In his latest blog for William Hill, AP McCoy discusses who he thinks will win the William Hill King George VI Chase, picking up a Lifetime Achievement award and his plans for Christmas.

It was a big thing being in Belfast and picking up the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Lifetime Achievement Award. Being named Sports Personality in 2010 was a fantastic thing, but I look at the names on the Lifetime Achievement award and the previous winners, like Pele and Seve Ballesteros, George Best and Sir Alex Ferguson. Every iconic sportsperson in the world has their name on it. I have as much pride in receiving this as winning in 2010. It was nice it was in Belfast too, not far from home. The reception and atmosphere was fantastic. Even people like Dan Carter afterwards said he’d never seen anything like it. Not only did it surprise me and have an effect on me, but even these global stars were amazed by the enormity of it.

They let Luke Harvey come just to have a look. The invite wasn’t from me but I’m glad he was there. We’ve been good friends for years. Plus it’s important to be charitable at Christmas time and no-one deserves it more than Luke…Luke needs looking after… 

Speaking of footballers, I think Arsenal’s win over Man City has given the fans a bit of belief and I think the players now have the belief. There’s nothing like winning to give you confidence. Obviously there’s been problems at all the other football clubs and I think Arsenal are coming out of it stronger. Arsenal have more togetherness, I think there is a good team spirit and I’d say that’s not the case at all the other teams. Watford and Leicester are doing well and have a good atmosphere, but it’s just not the case at some of the bigger clubs. You have to believe you can win.

Mesut Ozil is only five assists away from the record and he’s a brilliant playmaker but I think he needs to score more goals. He needs that to be talked about in the same light as Messi or Ronaldo or Suarez. I think when players at Arsenal look and think the grass is greener on the other side, like Fabregas and Flamini and Song, they haven’t always appreciated what they have. Flamini could have had a very successful career if he’d stayed at Arsenal. It’s good that he’s come back as it may help other players have a rethink about leaving the club.

It’s going to be like a jockeys’ retirement home on Christmas Day at my house. I’ve got Mick Fitzgerald and his wife and kids, Richard Hughes and his wife and kids, I have Dominic Elsworth and his wife and kids, I have Carl Llewelyn and his girlfriend, and my wife’s sister and her husband. I’m feeding the retired for Christmas. That will be exciting. I don’t know if there will be a competition for who can eat the most, but I’ll probably win. Fitzy is a good grubber as well, maybe Dominic Elsworth is the strongest. For once, I won’t be going for first, I’ll be going for seconds.

Chanelle’s good at buying me Christmas presents, but the best Christmas present I’ve ever received was getting the ride on Best Mate and winning the King George. Looking at this year’s race, as long as the ground doesn’t get too heavy, I would be very keen on Don Cossack. He’s a much better horse on better ground and I think the less rain we have the better for him. I think he looked a little lethargic at Down Royal because of the ground, but I think he’s a better horse than how he looks.

I think Vautour has it all to prove on his Ascot performance, but at the same time we don’t know what kind of preparation he had. He jumped left that day and I know they don’t think that’s an issue but I’m not convinced. I don’t think staying will be a problem, I’d be more worried about him jumping left because Kempton is on the turn a good bit and I don’t think it would be an advantage going the wrong way round. Cue Card was very impressive at Wetherby and Haydock. The handicapper suggested his performance was as good as ever. If I was going to pick two horses it would be Don Cossack and Cue Card. I think Silviniaco Conti has an awful lot to find and we may have seen the best of him. Al Ferof was impressive in the Peterborough, Smad Place was great in the Hennessy. It wouldn’t be the first time a grey horse won the race, with the likes of Desert Orchid and One Man. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Smad Place could improve, he was very impressive in the Hennessy and he was more aggressively ridden. I don’t think you could rule him out. He’s got to make the step up from a handicap to Grade 1 company though. He’s a fair price but a lot of the others have already won Grade 1s. As long as it doesn’t get too heavy, I think Don Cossack will win the William Hill King George.

It is harder to watch the big races like the King George. At the same time the reality is that while it’s difficult for me to retire, it’s a lot more difficult for those jockeys who have been less fortunate. I was lucky that I had a lot of success.

Looking at the Christmas Hurdle, I think it was just a blip from Faugheen at Punchestown. The biggest shock of all was that Willie Mullins couldn’t believe he got beat. I find it hard to think the opposition in the Christmas Hurdle will be good enough to beat Faugheen if he shows what he is capable of. The others just don’t have the same level of ability. Faugheen should be a 1/10 shot.

Over in Ireland in the Lexus Chase, the biggest nightmare is for Bryan Cooper. It’s a good one to have, but there’s four horses in Don Cossack, Don Poli, Road To Riches and Sir Des Champs who could be a potential Gold Cup horse for him and he’s got three of them running in the one race. That’s the biggest nightmare for a jockey, you are picking them on performances and you think which one could win and there’s not much between them. Road To Riches won the Lexus last year, Sir Des Champs had a long time off but was second in a Gold Cup and looked a very classy horse, Don Poli – if you’d asked me leaving Cheltenham last year which horse could be a potential Gold Cup horse it would have been him, because he’s got stamina to burn. However much class you have, you need to have stamina to win a Gold Cup. Carlingford Lough won the Hennessy at Leopardstown last season, though it would take a career best for him to win. Who would I choose? I think Sir Des Champs has the most class, but if I could ride one it would be Don Poli only because I think he would suit me, I think he would love a bit of hardship. Don Poli wouldn’t know when he’d had enough. 

If I was going to give you a festive winner, I think Upswing will run well in the Welsh National. He ran well behind Sausalito Sunrise at Cheltenham last time and Jonjo does well with staying chasers. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas.


AP McCoy was the shortest price for a knighthood of anyone in the New Year Honours betting market (2/1) before William Hill suspended betting on Tuesday.