Orion Books, €23.40
Review: Stephen Cadogan
BRITAIN’S Sportsman and Sports Personality of the Year in 2010 the businesslike AP McCoy doesn’t hang about.
Latching onto the national publicity generated by being the first jockey to win the Sportsman of the Year title, and his first Grand National win, the jump jockey is predictably as focused as ever.
Racing followers would have expected no different from the rider who won his first British jump jockey’s championship in 1996, and who has robotically proceeded to dominate the tough national hunt jockey scene ever since.
For the loyal followers of this winter sport, McCoy has been the most reliable of all to deliver winning bets, but for all that, he never enjoyed the place in their affection reserved for some of his more charismatic, unpredictable — and more likeable — colleagues.
It will come as little surprise to them to learn that as a 15-year-old, already earning money as a jockey in his native Northern Ireland, he acted as a moneylender to his older sisters, keeping track of their debts in a ledger, and insisting they pay back, or else.
Even then, he was forming the single-mindedness that has won McCoy the British national hunt jockey’s title every year since 1996. That means riding as many horses as possible all year round, requiring a dedication to duty, and in McCoy’s case, an apparent success addiction which is a central theme running through his life story.
By 2009, he had ridden 3,000 winners across the winning line, a feat which earned him earnings of at least €290,000 per year.
His open approach to the autobiography throws up some eye-openers — not least among them a fertility problem which the jockey links to the scalding hot baths necessary throughout his career to keep his riding weight down.
We also learn his family once hid an IRA fugitive under the bed — so maybe the jockey was waiting for peace in the North to write his life story.
Growing up in Moneyglass, Co Antrim, Anthony Peter McCoy was interested in horses as a child, and local racehorse trainer Billy Rock set him on the road to greatness, but Billy was also in the business of importing semen for artificially inseminating dairy cows — and used to tell McCoy’s mother that he could make a living as an operative, if he didn’t make it as a jockey.
Make it he has, to the very top of his game and he McCoy now hits the race tracks 365 days a year, relentlessly pushing for his 4,000th winner.
He seems happiest when riding winners. However, animal lovers will be disappointed that the thousands of horses he has partnered seem to have been no more than the conveyances to take him to the top of his sport. In fact, he admits he has never trusted a horse — and who can blame him, after his share of the crippling injuries which every jump jockey faces.
Racing fans will enjoy the life story, put together with the help of Irish racing journalist Donn McClean, but this is also a telling account of coping with ambition in a demanding career.