Racing: McCoy equals Richards' record

Tony McCoy has equalled Gordon Richards' record for the most winners in a season when he won on Shepherds Rest at Warwick.

Tony McCoy today equalled Gordon Richards’ all-time winners in a season record when chalking up his 269th winner of the season at Warwick.

McCoy won the on the Charles Morlock-trained Shepherds Rest to finally match the record he has been on the verge of for the last four weeks.

The champion jockey had earlier got off the mark for the day by winning the second race, the Hampton Magna Novices’ Chase on Shampooed.

His double ended a comparatively lean spell which has seen him rack up just 15 winners in the last month.

It is a measure of McCoy’s recent domination of jump racing that virtually all the records the jockey breaks nowadays are his own.

He reached the fastest-ever 200 on Native Man at Huntingdon on January 11 this year beating his own best set in 1999/2000 by 38 days, and the Irishman also has the three quickest 100s to his credit too.

Also at Huntingdon this season he topped his previous best tally of 253 set in 1997/8 on Firetree on March 2.

And now with his victory on Shepherds Rest in the Barford Handicap Chase at Warwick he has equalled the record of 269 winners in a season set by one of the all-time greats, Gordon Richards, back in 1947.

From his 1994/5 debut season in Britain, when he became champion conditional jockey with a record 74 winners, McCoy has been tearing up the record books.

Notable landmarks include his 1,000th winner on Majadou at Cheltenham in December 1999 - more than five years quicker than the previous best - and his 1,500th success on Celtic Native at Exeter last December.

And McCoy provided the perfect combination of quantity and quality in 1997/8 with a record-equalling five winners at Cheltenham Festival Champleve, Unsinkable Boxer, Cyfor Malta, Edredon Bleu and Blowing Wind.

For the 27-year-old has a record second to none in the big races and he landed the rare Cheltenham Gold Cup/Champion Hurdle double on Mr Mulligan and Make A Stand in 1997.

But it is his tremendous will to win at any level that marks him out, and makes him an obvious ally of similarly obsessive trainer Martin Pipe - whose former jockey Peter Scudamore set most of the records McCoy has broken.

Pipe recently became the most successful trainer in British racing history and McCoy is long odds-on to emulate him by beating Richard Dunwoody’s tally of 1,699 winners before he retires.

McCoy has had advantages over his predecessors, such as the extra winning opportunities offered by summer jumping and the recent trend for milder winters and fewer abandonments.

And he has the perfect background for a champion jockey.

His father Peadar may be a joiner by profession but, like many in Ireland, he keeps a few horses ‘‘as a hobby’’ - his ‘‘hobby’’ horses included future Cheltenham Festival winner Thumbs Up.

McCoy junior was schooling jumpers - a job calling for strength and experience rather than youth and enthusiasm - by the age of 13 and soon realised his future lay in racing.

He began spending weekends working for local trainer Willie Rock, leading up horses ridden by today’s weighing-room colleagues Charlie Swan and Conor O’Dwyer.

And at 15 he quit school - to his mother’s displeasure - and headed south from Co Antrim to join Jim Bolger’s stable on the Curragh in Dublin.

McCoy was soon riding work on the likes of Classic winners St Jovite and Jet Ski Lady.

Though he still saw himself as a jump jockey in the making his new boss wanted him to stick to the Flat and was reluctant to let him ride over hurdles, refusing him any mounts over fences.

McCoy got what he sees as a ‘‘lucky break’’ when he broke his left leg, causing his weight to balloon and forcing even Bolger to concede his future lay over the sticks.

Soon after came the opening that has allowed him to set the British racing world alight.

In the summer of 1994, Eddie Harty engineered a meeting between the youngster looking for a chance and British trainer Toby Balding who was seeking a conditional jockey.

Balding had struck lucky in Ireland two years earlier by snapping up a youth called Adrian Maguire, who turned out to be one of the biggest riding talents of the decade.

He was prepared to take a chance on McCoy - who’d ridden only seven winners over jumps - on the recommendation of the man who rode his Grand National winner Highland Wedding.

McCoy was keen to grab the opportunity, recognising that following in such famous footsteps would earn him the publicity which could open doors elsewhere.

But it soon became clear that the young man in a hurry would generate his own publicity on the track.

He took to British racing straight away and rode 74 winners in his first season, running away with the conditional jockeys’ championship.

Many a young rider struggles once losing their right to claim and fails to confirm the promise of their early career. But McCoy has never looked back and has been champion jockey every season since.

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