Tag Archives: Richard Hughes

Favourite Horse: Paco Boy

Favourite Horse: over the next weeks I’ll write a series of articles about horses I hold dear to my heart. Let’s start with my all time favourite! 

2008 was the year that my interest in horse racing became serious. In my memories these are the good old days – a time when betting on horses was neither financially rewarding nor sought out to be, although it was a great time of learning something new about the sport every single day.

What coincided with this time, and it probably was one of the main reasons why I became so fascinated by horse racing, was the emergence of a number of legendary horses. To this day I do become a little bit emotional if I hear their names, to be honest.

Possibly not quite in the league of legends, yet the horse I well and truly fell in love with, was in his early days very much doubted whether he could become what he ultimately became: a top class miler. He showed plenty of speed and a dazzling turn of foot but may well be short of the required stamina?

It was exactly this incredible change of gear – the moment when a motionless Richard Hughes pressed the button, when the response was instantaneous – something that was visually so impressive and outlandish, certainly not observed in any other sport I have ever watched – that made me fall in love with Paco Boy.

Paco Boy was a promising juvenile, however he took his career to new heights in his classic year, particularly in the summer and autumn months.

He landed a number of graded races and finished the season with an exciting first Group 1 victory in the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp. It’s a shame Paco Boy didn’t get the chance to run in the 2000 Guineas that year, but at that stage he was still an immature horse with question marks over this stamina.

A year older and wiser, after a disappointing reappearance in Dubai, Paco Boy then proved his class thanks superb victory in the Queen Anne Stakes, when an ice cool Richard Hughes showed his trademark patience, delivering Paco Boy late in the race to produce his own trademark turn of foot.

The partnership of Richard Hughes with a horse like Paco Boy, who needed to be ridden with patience and confidence and delivered late, turned out to be an irresistible combination. It didn’t always go to plan – on the days where it did it turned out to be as spectacular as racing can be.

To this day for me personally the most spectacular, visually exciting and explosive demonstration of an instant acceleration and manifestation of pure class is the one Paco Boy produced in the 2010 Lockinge Stakes:

Richard Hughes completely motionless, with two furlongs to go still sitting behind all his rivals, ever so slightly edging closer while calmly steering Paco Boy through an opening gap; approaching the final furlong marker and everything else around him is hard at work – “Paco Boy is laughing at them”, screams an astonished Richard Hoiles in the original track commentary!

Once asked to win the race Paco Boy puts it to bed in a matter of strides. Mind, this is a Group 1 race!

Extended footage can be found here – including a few shots of an emotional Richard Hannon, who shed a few tears that day and also is quoted saying “I’ve got pictures of him all over the house”!

A career spanning over four seasons – 24 races, 11 victories, 9 in pattern class, three Group Ones, including the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot.

On the rating front: Paco Boy ran twelve times to a Tospeed Rating of 100 or higher (six times >110). That is an incredible level of consistency for successive seasons. Not many horses are capable of achieving this. In his prime on fast ground when tracking a decent pace Paco Boy was nearly unbeatable.

Yes, one could potentially point out: “what did he beat?”. The form of is Queen Anne and Lockinge Stakes victories didn’t work out all that great in hindsight. Nonetheless he beat and fought it out with the best of the best among the milers of that era and made some really good horses look rather ordinary.

Ultimately, when do you ever see a horse in a Group 1 contest cantering all over his rivals, hard on the bridle, approaching the final furlong marker? It’s a rare feat and something special.

And not to forget: he chased the almighty mare that is Goldikova on more than one occasion home. I maintain to this day he was the better horse in the 2010 Queen Anne Stakes and Richard Hughes, on that day, left it simply a little bit too late (as a matter of fact Paco Boy recorded a higher Topspeed rating than Goldikova that day).

Put simply: Paco Boy was the most exciting horse I have ever followed as a fan of the sport. He was my first real “love” in the world of horse racing. Although he is closely followed by possibly the greatest racehorse of all time. More on that in the next part of this series.

Jockeys’ Championship – Does It Still Matter?

By now you may have heard about the changes made in terms of the British Flat Jockeys’ Championship. The general perception is rather negative, though I don’t want to get caught up in the discussion whether these changes make sense or not. My question is rather: Does it still matter? I mean does anyone really care about this championship these days?

No. 

Simple answer from my side. I’m sure not anyone does agree with me, and that is fine. But let me explain: Flat racing has developed very much into a global sport. Opportunities are near and far these days – for horses, trainers, owners and jockeys alike. Be it Hong Kong, Australia or the US – the big ride in a prestigious Group race is just one flight away.

Yes, I’m sure to win the title meant allot to Richard Hughes or Paul Hanagan in recent years. And yes, it is still some achievement to ride thousand races a year and lift the trophy at the end of the season for being ‘the best’. But what is it really worth?

The broader context to this is that the best (or most talented) British jockeys simply aren’t competing for the title these days. Much the opposite. They are frequently on the hunt for opportunities elsewhere. Because of the internationalisation of the sport, the best jockeys have now more than ever the opportunities to ride in big races anywhere in the world. And indeed, that is what they do! The Buick’s, Moore’s and Doyle’s are happy enough to miss a whole day in the office at Pontefract or Windsor, for one single ride in the big Grade 1 at Arlington.

And here’s my point: If the best British jockeys deliberately don’t compete for the title, where is the merit of this championship? Yes, someone will win it in the end, because that is the nature of competition. Someone will have the most winners on the plate at the end of the season. But someone is not the best. And shouldn’t the best compete for a jockey’s championship?

Imagine Bayern Munich wouldn’t compete in the Bundesliga anymore because the big games in the Champions League are so much more important. Yes, someone would still win the Bundesliga. But what would it be worth, without competing against the best? I know, this comparison is quite  simplistic (and, admittedly, unrealistic). Jockeys still compete throughout the season in the UK, even if they don’t go all out for the title. But still, it illustrates my point, doesn’t it?

Long story short: The jockeys’ championship is becoming a pointless competition, it lost its appeal and value. Why? Because the currency of modern flat racing is big wins – and those aren’t necessarily the class 5 Handicaps on a Wednesday evening around Kempton…