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Ignore the arrogance of experts; Steaming.

Byline: Newsboy

HAVE you ever ridden the winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Champion Hurdle or the Grand National? Or the Derby? Or the Arc?

It's very likely you haven't. And, to be honest, neither have I.

So, given our lack of success in the greatest races of the calendar, what qualification have we to hold an opinion when it comes to the performance of jockeys?

None, if you listen to certain riders, past and present. Tony McCoy, his association with Denman, and then their separation at the third-last fence of last Saturday's Aon Chase at Newbury, proved a case in point.

When the 14-time champion was announced as the 2008 Gold Cup hero's new partner many observers voiced the opinion they didn't think he was the right choice, a view - for what it's worth - that I don't share.

Immediately, out came the same tired old question, challenging the right of anybody without a victory under Rules to hold an opinion. "How many winners have you ridden?"

Do you remember Massimo Taibi? He was a goalkeeper signed for pounds 4.4million by Manchester United a few years ago. The Italian played just four games for the Red Devils and is best remembered for a howler by which he let a harmless Matt Le Tissier shot through his legs and into the net.

But do you need to have played Premier League football to know the former Venezia man messed up? Of course not.

Then there was Steve Harmison's opening ball of the 2006-07 Ashes series Down Under. The Durham paceman looked so nervous it's a miracle he managed to keep hold of the nut in his hand.

Sure enough, when he let it go, Aussie opener Justin Langer didn't have much defending to do, as the ball ended up in the hands of second slip.

Again, you don't need to have scored a Test century at Lord's or taken eight wickets before lunch for that matter, to realise Harmy got the Three Lions' Ashes defence off to the worst possible start.

As far as I'm aware, Henry Cecil is yet to ride his first winner and I believe the same is true of Sir Michael Stoute. Does that mean neither man holds a legitimate view when it comes to appraising their riders? Thought not.

So, please, little men, let us have no more of this nonsense that those over a certain height or weight are debarred from having an opinion.

I've never been to the North Pole, but I know it's bloody cold.

GINGER McCAIN often uses the unveiling of the Grand National weights to let rip about the race ain't what it used to be, and the Aintree legend was at it again on Tuesday.

Red Rum's trainer expressed himself "disgusted" that "20-plus" horses came back onto the racecourse proper still with a chance in 2009, adding: "They don't make climbing Everest easier by taking 10,000 feet off the top."

Give it a rest, Ginger. It's still a race for heroes - the fact that loads of runners were still involved is a triumph for handicapping, not a sign the National has gone soft.

But, there again, as I haven't trained a National winner, does my opinion count?

CAPTION(S):

SOLO A riderless Denman certainly seems to have taken a view
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 20, 2010
Words:553
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