AP McCoy – It’s Been A Pleasure

AP McCoy

Many years ago the Press Room was alive with talk of a jockey who looked like he could make it at the National Hunt game…a young Irish lad named A P McCoy (never Tony) left Jim Bolger’s yard after growing too tall for any chance of a career on the flat, and arrived as a Conditional jockey at the yard of Toby Balding of Beech Road, Morley Street, Highland Wedding and Little Polvier fame.

Although he rode his first winner in Ireland at the tender age of 17 (way back in 1992, doesn’t that make you feel old?), his first British winner was at Exeter in 1994 on a horse called Chickabiddy, though those on track failed to realise they were in the presence of greatness on the day. Winning the Conditional Jockeys’ title in 1995 before his first full jockeys title in 1996, he was soon snapped up to ride for Martin Pipe from his Somerset yard. To say that was the start of a beautiful friendship would be a gross understatement as he has gone on to not only break but smash every record possible, winning the Jump Jockeys Championship every single year from 1996 to date (20 in total) – though in 2004 he moved to ride for leading owner J P McManus whose primary base is at the Jonjo O’Neill yard. Despite time out with the obligatory injuries, AP has broken all the records – for most winners ridden, most winners in a season, fastest 200 in a season, most winners at a Cheltenham Festival (five), fastest 100 in a season…it goes on! The list is endless. While his BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2010 perhaps crowned his career, and gave racing some time in the media spotlight thanks to the achievements of the greatest jockey we have been lucky enough to witness in our lifetimes, it hasn’t stopped him turning up to a dull and wet Fakenham on a Friday afternoon, ready to drive home the favourite (or not, depending on the day) in a Class 6 Handicap Hurdle.

Not everyone judges a sportsman by just the numbers, and although his early days were spent hunting down winners at all tracks and in all grades, his record in the better races stands up to the closest inspection. The list is long but the highlights would have to include three Champion Hurdles, two Gold Cups, one Queen Mother Champion Chase, one Welsh National, one Scottish National, one Irish National, and one Grand National (on Don’t Push It in 2010), though with over 4000 other winners we cannot list them all here.

Describing him as single minded and focused sounds rude (it isn’t), but that is what has made him the success he is – despite his height, he has never put up overweight. Hours in the sauna in the early days allows him to make the lower weights, but he still gets up after falls that would hospitalise a rugby player – made of steel is an oft used phrase but genuinely applies in this case – but what now I wonder? Word is that he has been having a yard built for himself (and his family) and will start a career as a trainer but will he stick to what he knows over the jumps, or go looking for the richer pickings available on the flat I wonder? Although footballers don’t always make good managers, and jockeys can fail as trainers, here is a man who when he puts his mind to it, makes things happen – Paul Nicholls, Nicky Henderson and the like will be congratulating him on the outside but wary on the inside – can this man from County Antrim break all the records as a trainer as well in the years ahead?

In conclusion, all we can do is wish him the very best at whatever he chooses to do next –though punters will miss him the most as never gave up on any horse still in with a chance – just the kind of jockey we all like to have on our side! We sincerely hope that either Cheltenham Festival or Aintree provide him with one more fairytale winner before he waves goodbye to the saddle.

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