FROM CHAMPIONS LEAGUE TO CHAMPIONS RETIREMENT LOOSE BUTTON
On Saturday 25 April 2015 Tony AP McCoy made his last appearance on a racecourse, but before he did Channel 4 paid tribute to the 21 time champion on the Morning Line. My interest here began, like McCoy, with Toby Balding, for as a 16-year-old Apprentice Professional at Chelsea I was asked to go to the trainers yard to play in a Charity match which led to me coming face to face with Highland Wedding, the Grand National winner of that year. I forget who I was with but will never forget Mr Balding showing us around his stable and stroking this wonderful race horse. I would not say I was smitten with the sport, unlike my cousin (and hero) Anthony Mason, who we lost a couple of years ago, but my love for the sport was obvious. Where is the revelance to this book about the Sounders and football? Well, as the saying goes “Every road leads to somewhere” and this road led to Longacres, a beautiful racecourse just about halfway between Renton and the Airport, and some half-an-hour away from my ‘House on the Hill’. We had some wonderful days at Longacres, and I can only say it was the best way to spend a day off, and the reason it was so great is unlike in England you can bet on every corner a every minute of the day, whereas in the USA it is strictly racetrack or nothing, and that was why I was so much better off in Seattle because I limited my trips to the ‘horses’ which made it much more special. The difference also was that the American way of life was seen here, as they cater for the punter in such a fantastic way, having lunch and unlimited drinks which made it like you were in Heaven. I never experienced anything like this at Kempton or Sandown Park, Epsom, Haydock Park or Wolverhampton in the Seventies. When David (Gillett) drove us to the hotel from SeaTac last October the first place I looked for was Longacres, and was told by David that it had been changed (redecorated or something like that), only we never got the opportunity to have a days racing. There was so much that I wanted to do and a day out there was definitely on the agenda. However, we never got that pleasure. Next time in September, without fail.
One of the funniest things that came out of this was when in training the following day the young American players picked up that we had been there, myself, Harry Redknapp, Mike Ivano, Adrian and a couple of others. One of the youngsters asked how we done and as quick as a flash Harry (who is very quick witted) said, “No good, but we will get all our money back and more. And you young lads must look out for two horses. Look in the Seattle Times every day for Loose Button, for it’s definitely going to come off, and Dusty Carpet, which has never been beaten”. Well, you can imagine the reaction, as the place fell silent. Every week the lads would keep asking when these two horses were running, because they had been looking in the papers every day, but nothing. We used to go to Dukes Bar and lugh our heads off. To this day, they still don’t know? Naive!
They were lovely lads that we had in our team though, but that was so very funny seeing their faces as they asked and I really don’t know how we kept straight faces. Those were the days my friend I thought they’d never end….that ******* Anderson, again!
Anyhow, what I loved on Saturday was when Carl Llewelyn told of how McCoy made sure that all the jockeys that had been injured and hospitalized were looked after by the very best doctors and surgeons. I thought that a great touch, which speaks more for the man than any of his four thousand and more winners. This reminded me of a story I was telling last week about us players visiting the children in hospital at Christmas, which was wonerful, as it was not only great for those kids, taking them presents, but great for players to appreciate not only the job we had but having healthy children ourselves, things that were taken for granted by many, naturally. I told the story of at Arsenal when we did this and the trouble we had getting Liam ‘Chippy’ Brady to come. He would not commit himself because he hated hospitals, but after we finished with him we got him there but once we got him there we could not get him out, as he spent time with every child in the ward before leaving, Great stuff, Chippy!