WHEN Ian Wright became part-owner of racehorse Born To Finish, he wanted an expert to put his acquisition through its paces.
And who better than AP McCoy, the 20-time Champion Jockey and Arsenal fan?
SunSport’s MARK IRWIN accompanied the duo to the Danebury Racing Stables in Hampshire, where leading trainer Jeremy Gask is preparing the horse for his next outing.
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AP McCOY: We’re here at Jeremy Gask’s yard to see Born To Finish. Who’s it named after, Thierry Henry?
IAN WRIGHT: Ha ha. People ask that a lot. Now I just say, “Yeah, it is actually.”
A friend came up with the name. There’s a video of me on YouTube called Born to Finish and we thought we’d give him that name.
AP: It’s hard to describe the feeling of watching your own horse. I suppose you’re more nervous than as a footballer.
IW: Very nervous. There’s no control and no pressure on me. I just want the horse to be OK. Whether it wins or loses, I’m not too fussed. I just feel a nice bond with it.
AP: There were plenty of Arsenal lads during your time who liked a bet.
IW: Paul Merson would look at everything and say: “Get on this one, get on that one.” But he wasn’t a good tipster — as you can see from his Soccer Saturday predictions.
AP: He wasn’t alone. There was a betting culture in football.
IW: When we were involved in England, all anyone would talk about was the horses.
Michael Owen is really into his racing but he has never given me a decent tip. He’s useless at tipping.
AP: Are you going to ride Born To Finish?
IW: No, I am not.
AP: I’m a brilliant footballer so let’s see how good you are on a horse.
IW: I wouldn’t even be able to get on.
AP: Hopefully he won’t think I’m too fat to ride him.
I think I ride in a light position, so the horse won’t think he can’t carry me. As a jockey you have to make it easy for a horse to carry you.
IW: What do you look for to see how good a horse is?
AP: I once asked Martin Pipe, one of the best trainers ever, what he looks for when he’s trying to find a good horse. His answer, quick as a flash, was: “One that has a lot of No 1s beside its name.”
When I told him a horse didn’t look very much, he asked: “Do you have any murders in your house?”
He meant that looks don’t mean anything. As a footballer you look at different athletes like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. If you were to buy one of them as the perfect footballer you’d probably buy Ronaldo because he looks the part and you could stick him in a catalogue and sell whatever you want of him.
This horse is more Messi — smaller, more compact and lower to the ground. It doesn’t mean he can’t run fast.
IW: I think he’s beautiful. AP: Do we look good together?
IW: Seeing AP on my horse is a beautiful thing.
AP: A minute ago I heard you patting him, saying you love him. I wasn’t sure if you were talking to him or me.
IW: Wow, look how quick he’s going. That is gorgeous.
AP: He’s a proper athlete, isn’t he? I think I’m more knackered than the horse.
IW: He looks so smooth.
AP: It’s amazing how quick they can go. People who have never been to yards don’t get the experience of how a horse is trained.
IW: I want to come back as Galileo, the former Derby winner. He’s got a great life.
AP: He’s the man. This one’s a gelding, so he’s not going to have as much fun as Galileo. This one is more like his owner.
IW: Galileo is like Ronaldo.
AP: He’s better. He’s got a better pedigree, his offspring, the likes of Frankel.
Galileo is his daddy. I often say if Galileo was a human he’d be better bred than Prince William.
His mum won the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, the best race in Europe, and his dad was called Sadler’s Wells.
He’s more like George Best and he probably had more fun than George Best.
He was such a brilliant racehorse, he won the Derby, the King George. He’s my hero.
AP: Well, Liam Brady was my hero — and Pat Rice and Pat Jennings. In 1979 I was five and Arsenal won the FA Cup wearing yellow.
They beat Man United with Brady, Jennings, Rice, Sammy Nelson, Frank Stapleton, David O’Leary. Half the team were Irish. That’s how I became an Arsenal fan.
IW: I thought you’d be a Manchester United fan, like the rest of Ireland.
AP: A lot of my family were United and Liverpool fans. But that was the first time I watched a Cup final and I wanted the team in yellow.
IW: Alan Sunderland scored in the No 8 and I loved him. That’s why I kept the No 8.
AP: I remember Jennings opening a sports shop near my house. I queued up to get a signed football. I wouldn’t play with it.
Liam Brady — I’d never met him until Cheltenham 1996. I was doing a sponsors’ box and I was racing up the stairs in my racing gear.
Someone stopped me on the way up, I looked round and it was Brady. I couldn’t speak. I think he thought I didn’t know who he was.
Imagine your hero as a kid stopping you to say hello. Who was your hero as a boy?
IW: Kevin Keegan. Everyone used to say to me, “You’re a bit small, it’s not going to happen.” I remember Keegan once saying he wasn’t the most talented but he made sure no one worked as hard as him. Once he said that, I knew I could make it. I was small but I was good enough.
AP: Were you an Arsenal fan before you joined them from Crystal Palace?
IW: Yeah, because of David Rocastle, who came from our estate. I fell in love with the club when I joined in 1991.
This is why I have such a problem with Palace fans, as they’re jealous of my love for Arsenal. They believe they gave me the chance. I’ll always be grateful for that but Arsenal is a special club.