Over the stable door: Day of false starts has happy ending at the last

AP McCoy at the opening of Jack Berry House.

AP McCoy at the opening of Jack Berry House.

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I WAS disappointed to miss the official opening ceremony of The Jack Berry House in Malton on Tuesday.

Jack had invited me along with the chance to meet Princess Anne who I have the upmost admiration for. I fancied trying out the swimming pool and getting a bit of physio whilst I was there but sadly a clash with Ascot bloodstock sales meant I was heading south.

Jack has brought something momentous to our small Yorkshire market town for which we are all incredibly grateful.

Last week, alongside preparing for my owner’s morning, which is today, I had three horses running at Wetherby. My jockey Dougie Costello was riding one at Worcester before heading to Wetherby’s evening meeting for four rides. His agent explained he would have enough time to get there in time for my runners. It wasn’t until I double checked the timings after declarations I realised Dougie had two hours to get there. Without the use of a helicopter he wasn’t going to make it. Quickly I booked another jockey to be on standby to ride, when Dougie didn’t arrive we were organised.

As my new jockey mounted, Mr Costello was 25 miles away but confident he would be arrive to ride my fancied runner Jesus in the next.

Twenty minutes later Jesus was striding round the pre-parade ring on his toes. I got a call, Dougie was stuck in traffic. He was six miles away and wouldn’t make it. I ran to the weighing room to locate a light jockey (he was carrying 10st). No one could do the weight. There was no option but to pull him out.

It seemed my day wasn’t going well. It had started badly, someone hit my wing mirror and drove off and then a work rider rang in sick. Dougie’s day was no better. His mount at Worcester had finished last and when he finally arrived at Wetherby his next ride had fallen. When we met in the paddock for the last race and my final runner neither of us were optimistic. He was riding Craigdancer.

Dancer is something of a juvenile delinquent, since arriving from Ireland last summer he has behaved like a hyperactive child which I had put down to age. A winter older and he was still acting the fool. It hasn’t helped him perform to his best, wasting energy and finishing nearer last than first. In an effort to channel the boundless enthusiasm I’d fitted him with a hood to run in. I hoped blocking out noise may help.

I legged up our slightly bruised jockey and wished him luck, we were 25-1 so he needed it. The owners had invested in a new set of bright American flag colours, they stood out a mile. For the first circuit we watched the red, white and blue colours trundle round the back, it seemed the hood had done such a good job Dancer was falling asleep.

But as 15 runners turned the bend towards home it was with disbelief we noticed the stars and stripes confidently weaving their way through the field. Our encouragement grew in volume and as Dancer jumped the last in second place just two lengths behind the leader, we jumped up and down so hard we broke the wooden seat we’d been sat on. Dougie had ridden a blinder. It was unbelievable. The last time I had a winner at Wetherby I was riding it, but this felt just as good.

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