11th November 2015

Being back at Cheltenham & Being AP

I popped into Cheltenham on the Saturday of The Showcase to see JP and a few others and I can’t wait to get back this weekend for The Open, although I will be there in a rather different capacity to 12 months ago!

The course looked fantastic when I was there and Cheltenham are lucky that they have such a special place to stage racing. One of the things that makes Cheltenham for someone who is lucky enough to win there is the walkway back though the crowds at the front, and the new grandstand and viewing areas will give a lot more people the chance to see what is happening.

As a jockey you want to win at Cheltenham. It is the equivalent of any other sport’s main arena or ground and the reception any winner gets will only be enhanced with the improvements.

I won’t deny that it will be strange being back at Cheltenham for this meeting as a civilian or spectator rather than a jockey. I maybe didn’t ride at the meeting in my first year but I have ridden there at the last 17 or 18 Paddy Power meetings!

I won’t be sitting idle this weekend, though, as I will be starting my new role with Channel 4 Racing as a pundit. I like horse racing and I like talking about it so I’m looking forward to being part of the team.

I was in a privileged position for a long time and I think with the new role you just have to be honest about what you are seeing. I will hopefully make comment about it as if I was making comment about myself and it’s a privilege to be given the chance to talk about what I love.

I have got 14 day’s racing with Channel 4 and I will probably do a few other specials along the way. I will be doing two days at The Festival next March and hopefully it will be difficult for people to get bored of me … I’m only doing a few days so hopefully I won’t be on often enough for people to get fed up.

I have enjoyed the bits of TV I have done in the past but I have never done it as a professional. It is one of those things I would like to be good at, and I was lucky that riding came naturally to me. I am not sure TV will come naturally but I am keen to give it go and see where I end up. I think you need to like something to be good at it and hopefully I will like doing it.

On the track this weekend I am very much looking forward to seeing More Of That make his chase debut on Friday. He never got to perform last year and he was never right or at his best, but he was high-class the year before and lets hope he can prove as good over fences.

King’s Palace looks a leading contender in the Paddy Power Gold Cup on Saturday and it is a race that the Pipe family like to lay one out for. I am not sure King’s Palace has necessarily been laid out for it as he has disappointed at the last two Festivals, but he does have good form around the track and he does go well fresh.

You sometimes need a Grade One horse to win this race, and sometimes you don’t. Plenty of good horses like Our Vic, Imperial Commander and Exotic Dancer have won it before, but it can be a winnable race. We won’t know until after if there are Grade One horses in there, but if there are they would be horses like King’s Palace and Petit Zig.

The two-mile novice chase on Sunday usually throws up a good horse and Garde La Victoire made a good debut at Uttoxeter and he will be the one to beat in that, and we have Sprinter Sacre coming back again in the Shloer Chase. His last run at Sandown in April was a lot better and if he is anywhere near his best he will win this weekend.

It was great to see Coneygree back winning again at Sandown last weekend and he deserves to be the Betfred Cheltenham Gold  Cup favourite, even though it is so hard to win back-to-back Gold Cups.  Kauto Star and Denman both couldn’t do it and they were both brilliant chasers. The only thing stopping me from saying he can do it really is statistics, but I do like Don Cossack as his main danger.

Stan James Champion Hurdle hopes Arctic Fire and Irving were both in winning action last weekend and both need to improve to be winning in March. We saw last year that Arctic Fire couldn’t beat Faugheen and everything needs to step up to beat him. I don’t think Faugheen will be walking his box over what happened last weekend and it will be great to see his wellbeing at Punchestown on Sunday.

As many of you will have already heard, Being AP, a documentary charting final year of my professional career, opens in cinemas on November 23, and on Blu-ray, DVD and Download on November 30.

The film, directed by the BAFTA and EMMY award-winning Anthony Wonke, looks into all elements from my career, both good and bad – falls, wins, injuries and losses – and is more than a story about racing.  It’s about the affect my career had on my family and psyche, my triumphs and failures and how I came to make the most difficult decision of my life – the decision to leave professional racing behind.

The premier is in London on the 23rd and we have had a good director – his main challenge was he material he had to work with! The main reason I did it was for my little boy, Archie, and hopefully he will be able to look back on it in later years and enjoy it.

If you want to see exclusive clips, images and giveaways, head to the film’s Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/BeingAPthemovie/

Cheltenham Racecourse will screen the new feature length film on the same night as it premiers in London on its full size, HD cinema screen in The Centaur. After the film there will be a live streamed Q&A from London with Clare Balding and AP himself. Tickets  are available to purchase online here.

I want to finish by paying my own tribute to Pat Eddery, who sadly has passed away this week.  It is sad he has gone but he has left a legacy.

He was very different and very unique in that he had a different style to most other jockeys, but different in a good way in that he was better than the others.

He rode against the best jockeys – Lester Piggott, Joe Mercer, Steve Cauthen, Willie Carson, Frankie Dettori and Kieren Fallon. He rode with the best and he was brilliant every day of the week – not just on the big days but Monday to Sunday and had the ability to get a horse to run for him.

That’s all for this blog so have a great Open meeting and I hope you enjoy the Being AP movie.