AP McCoy: The greatest jockey. The greatest sportsman

AP McCoy rides his first ever winner in Britain aboard Chickabiddy at Exeter in September 1994. 

For two decades, only one man in National Hunt racing has been able to call himself the champion. When the season draws to a close this weekend at Sandown, AP McCoy will be crowned Champion Jockey for the 20th consecutive year.

Such an achievement deserves to be celebrated, but it will be an occasion which is tinged with an element of sadness as this is the last title that McCoy will have the opportunity to claim.

When Mr Mole gave McCoy his 200th winner of the campaign back in February, the sport was rocked as he revealed, in his live post-race interview with Channel 4, that this season was to be his last.

QUOTE: Clare Balding, television presenter: “AP isn’t just the greatest jockey I have ever seen, he is the greatest sportsman I have ever come across. He has never not been champion in his career. I feel very fortunate to have watched him throughout his career and that he chose racing. It’s hard to sum up how much admiration I have for him, he is an extraordinary human-being and amazingly kind.”

Having notched up more winners than any other jockey in each of his 20 seasons in Britain, McCoy’s desire to go out whilst still at the top of his game led him to make the tough decision to retire. He will hang up his saddle having won practically every major race going, including two Cheltenham Gold Cups and, most memorably, the 2010 Grand National which he won aboard Don’t Push It.

That famous victory at Aintree lead to honours which transcend racing and he was subsequently named BBC Sports Personality of the Year and awarded an OBE in The Queen’s 2010 Birthday Honours list for his services to the sport.

There has never been a jockey like AP McCoy and he became the first man to ever record 4,000 career wins when he guided Mountain Tunes to success at Towcester in 2013. Now with 4,348* victories to his name and almost 100 wins clear of his nearest rival, we’re unlikely to see anyone of his ilk again.

However, like all good things, McCoy’s outstanding career must come to an end and it is notable that this will be on his own terms. Injuries have curtailed the careers of many jockeys, but AP – having broken pretty much every bone throughout his time on the turf – has never looked like being defeated.

Just ask any of his opponents.

“I always had fear in my life that I wouldn’t be as good as I was, or that the dip would come and then I’d retire. I wanted to retire while I was good and before people thought that I wasn’t as good as I was. You have to be stubborn. For a lot of days, I wish I wasn’t doing it and that I hadn’t said it, but I’m not changing my mind, I’m too stubborn to do that. I wanted it to be like that. I wanted it to hurt.” AP McCoy, 18th April 2015, speaking to the Guardian.

“Only people who have had to live with great expectations can understand why they should go out at the top. That expectation is indescribable, losing was never an option for Tony. Only winning mattered.” Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United manager and racehorse owner told The Yorkshire Post.

 

Curriculum Vitae

Anthony Peter McCoy OBE

Born: 4 May 1974 in Moneyglass, Country Antrim, Northern Ireland

Height: 5ft 10.5 inches

Weight:10 stone 5Ibs (has ridden at 10st 3lbs in the past)

 

Achievements:

For a man that has won pretty much everything there is to win in his sport, there are a few key highlights:

• 20 consecutive Champion Jump Jockey titles (as of 25th April 2015).

• 253 winners in the 1997-98 season, beating the previous record tally of jumps wins in a season of 221 held by Peter Scudamore.

• 289 winners in the 2001-02 season, a British horseracing record and surpassing

Sir Gordon Richards’ previous record of 269 winners on the flat.

• Became the most successful Jump jockey of all time when surpassing Richard Dunwoody’s tally of 1,699 winners in August, 2002.

• Rode his 4000th winner on Mountain Tunes at Towcester on 7th November 2013.

• Record-breaking 4,348 GB & IRE jumps winners as of 20th April 2015.

• Beat former trainer Martin Pipe’s total number of winners of 4,191 in July 2014.

• Practically every major race to his name including 2 Cheltenham Gold Cups, 3 Champion Hurdles and the Grand National.

• Awarded an MBE in the 2003 Queen’s Birthday Honours and an OBE in the 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

• Voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2010, the first time an individual from racing has been recognised in this way. Was third in the 2013 poll.

 

Key Milestones:

• 1st winner: Legal Steps, Thurles, 26th March 1992

• 1st winner in Britain: Chickabiddy, Exeter, 7th September 1994

• 1,000th Winner: Majadou, Cheltenham, 11th December 1999

• 2,000th Winner: Corporate Player, Wincanton, 17th January 2004

• 3,000th Winner: Restless D’Artaix, Plumpton, 9th February 2009

• 4,000th Winner: Mountain Tunes, Towcester, 7th November 2013.

• Record breaking career total of 4,348 winners (GB & Ire) (as of 23/04/14)*

* Great Britain and Ireland jumps races. Source: Weatherbys and Horse Racing Ireland