Savage will to win, durability and sheer bloody-mindedness sets ‘AP’ apart

Tony McCoy celebrates  his 4,000th career win  with daughter Eve, son Archie Peter and wife Chanelle at Towcester. Picture: Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images

There have been plenty of National Hunt jockeys with far more talent than Tony McCoy, but none with the almost savage will to win, durability and the sheer bloody- mindedness of the man most refer to as AP.

McCoy is a phenomenon and to hit a massive 4,000 winners, given the serious nature of National Hunt racing, simply speaks for itself.

National Hunt jockeys are always just one fall away from ending their career. It is the most hazardous of professions and they do it for the love of the game.

If huge financial rewards arrive as well, as they surely have for McCoy, then that can only be viewed as a major bonus.

What McCoy has achieved cannot be underestimated. He has broken or dislocated literally every bone in his body, some multiple times.

But year after year has kept coming back and, though a veteran now at 39 years- of age, there has been no indication whatsoever of any diminishing of either his enthusiasm or his nerve.

And National Hunt racing is all about nerve, about having the bottle to dust one’s self down after a fall and to go back out and treat the obvious dangers with utter contempt.

That’s exactly what McCoy has done throughout his life. He’s as hard as nails, tough as old boots, a dogged, determined warrior, who shows no signs of abandoning his God-given gift any time soon.

I’ve seen so many top jockeys, going back to the great Tommy Carberry, father of Paul, Nina and Philip.

Then there was Tommy Carmody, Peter Scudamore, John Francome, Richard Dunwoody, Charlie Swan and, of course, Ruby Walsh.

McCoy would not take the eye out of your head like say Carmody, Dunwoody or Francome.

Dunwoody was the supreme stylist and Carmody and Francome didn’t half sit nicely on a horse as well.

Truth to tell, when it comes to style at least, McCoy wouldn’t a hold a candle to that lot.

But there is so much more to being a top-notch National Hunt jockey than looking good and McCoy has proved that over and over again.

Much of his initial grounding came from Jim Bolger, widely accepted as a tough academy, but the youngster from Co Antrim clearly got a decent start and it has stood to him.

Indeed, the first ever winner he rode was for Bolger, aboard a horse called Legal Steps on the flat at Thurles in March of 1992.

None of us present that afternoon could have had the slightest notion of what was to come.

A fall on Bolger’s gallops, suffering a broken leg, was to play a significant part in his future.

During his period on the sidelines, McCoy grew taller and stronger and the decision was made that his future lay as a National Hunt jockey.

And so he first went to England in 1994 to become a conditional rider to Toby Balding.

It wasn’t long before he was receiving rave reviews and just three years later teamed up with the legendary Martin Pipe.

This was a marriage made in Heaven. Pipe was a perfectionist, obsessive about getting everything right and had taken the fitness of his horses to a totally new level.

In McCoy, he had found the ideal partner. McCoy was equally obsessive and the duo was almost unbeatable.

Because Pipe felt his horses were so much fitter than the opposition, he loved many of them to make the running.

A McCoy-ridden, Pipe-trained front-runner destroying the opposition was a frequent sight nearly every day on a British racecourse.

Looking through the records, it is hard to believe they were together for only seven years, it seemed much longer.

But when J P McManus came looking for McCoy’s services in 2004, the pilot faced what had to be the hardest decision of his life.

It was well known how close to Pipe he was and, indeed, the extended Pipe family as well.

But McCoy was now pushing on in years and this was the opportunity to ensure financial independence for the rest of his life.

At the time it was rumoured that McManus had offered him a retainer of £1m a year and so it quickly developed into a no-brainer.

He went with McManus, something, however, that still had the capacity to shock much of the racing world.

After all he was leaving a magician in Pipe and there was every reason to believe that his days as champion jockey would now be over.

Nothing, though, could have been further from the truth and he has won every championship in the meantime, nine in all.

McCoy has won just about everything, including all of the major races at the Cheltenham festival, and has smashed every record there has ever been.

Since the first day he turned professional, he has taken the championship every season in Britain, eighteen consecutive years, and is well on his way to another this campaign.

Out of the saddle, McCoy has been a huge ambassador for the game, is universally popular and rarely will you hear a bad word said about him.

He is a consummate professional, well aware of his status within the sport and the responsibility that naturally brings.

He seems, thankfully, to have no desire to retire and chances are may already be planning his next one thousand winners.

Whether one thinks he is the greatest jockey of all time, or not, is of no consequence.

He is definitely a great jockey, a great man, a one off and there will never be another Tony McCoy.

More on this topic

Dunwoody pays tribute to McCoy

McCoy modest in victory

Tony McCoy factfile

Tony McCoy's records


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