AP McCoy: Sean Bowen may have star quality to succeed legend

By Cornelius LysaghtBBC horse racing correspondent
AP McCoy and Sean Bowen
AP McCoy, on his final day of racing, hands the champion conditional jockey trophy to 17-year-old Sean Bowen

The comparisons are inevitable.

Twenty years to the day after AP McCoy completed a whirlwind first jumps season by being crowned champion conditional (jumps apprentice) jockey, he presented the trophy to the latest winner of that title - after another whirlwind campaign.

And as Sean Bowen, 17, posed for photographs, there was talk in the crowd of "handing on the baton", a thought swiftly reinforced by a double during the afternoon, one leg coming with an impeccably-timed challenge on 14-1 shot Just A Par in the bet365 Gold Cup.

With 51 successes in all, Bowen, son of Pembrokeshire trainers Peter and Karen, but working now for champion trainer Paul Nicholls, took his title by a margin of seven victories over Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Nico de Boinville.

That total is well short of the 74 that McCoy partnered in the 1994/95 campaign or indeed the record of 91 achieved by Joe Tizzard four seasons later.

But the teenager, one of the youngest ever riders to take part in the Grand National when 11th this year on Mon Parrain, did miss six weeks following a shoulder injury.

Sean Bowen
Sean Bowen (right) on Lil Rockerfeller forges ahead of Richard Johnson and Sternrubin to win The Juvenile Handicap Hurdle Race at Sandown

And it's widely recognised he has a star quality, something already identified by his agent Dave Roberts, whose reputation as jump racing's 'kingmaker' was gained during two decades booking mounts for McCoy.

"If I hadn't got Sean, I'd be trying to get him transferred," Roberts joked at Sandown where he made a rare racecourse appearance to celebrate the retirement of his highest-profile client.

"What he's doing is freaky, that's the only word you can use. The two winners here were not steering jobs, and he's showing a great talent for a young guy.

"Watching him on Just A Par jumping the Pond [third-last fence] I thought 'he really has got that something'."

Sean Bowen
Bowen (nearest, in green) also rode Just A Par to victory in the Gold Cup Steeple Chase at Sandown

Pressed on Bowen being the 'new AP', Roberts said he had had similar thoughts to those when watching McCoy in the mid-1990s, but was reluctant to expand so as to keep the young jockey's "feet on the ground".

Nicholls is equally enthusiastic. After welcoming back Just A Par on the day he himself was crowned champion jumps trainer for the eighth time in nine years, he said: "I always thought Sean was a great talent, but he's just improved enormously. He's got a great knack of making horses run, he's very strong and for a 17-year-old lad to go and ride round there like that is just awesome.

"It's really exciting for us to have him and Sam [Twiston-Davies] and Nick [Scholfield] for next season, a great team of jockeys as well as some fantastic horses."

Bowen is a realistic 33-1 to be the next champion jockey, though a good start when the new season gets under way again - after just three days off - is sure to see those odds tumbling.


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