Belfast Telegraph

Tony McCoy by the women who know him best: A stubborn Taurean and a big dreamer

BY UNA BRANKIN

Roisin Shivers was back at work in her hairdressing salon in Moneyglass yesterday after a late night at her sister Anne-Marie's nearby pub, celebrating their champion jockey brother Tony McCoy's 4,000th racing triumph.

"I had to sneak away at 1.30am – there were still a lot of people there having a great time," said Roisin (41).

"There were so many callers to my mother's house all day yesterday we headed to the pub to give her a break. She's so proud of Anthony – we all are."

Taking a brief break from styling hair at the busy salon, Roisin, who also runs the Viva supermarket in Moneyglass, gave an intimate insight into her legendary brother's character – and the family support that helped propel the champion jockey to greatness.

And she also admitted that for all her family's obvious pride at his record-breaking triumph, they do worry for his safety and the long-term impact of the sport he loves on his health.

Roisin puts her brother's success down to his determination – and his star sign. A Taurean, Tony turns 40 on May 4.

"He's just an ordinary, hard- working fella and he has a very good family network supporting him to do what he does," said Roisin.

"He has also had a bit of luck, but he's totally dedicated and obsessed with racing.

"He's definitely a typically stubborn Taurus the bull. He never wanted to do anything else and he wasn't interested in school at all and didn't want to go.

"I remember Anne Marie and I being mortified when he had to be personally escorted in. All he was ever interested in was horses. He didn't really socialise at all as a teenager and I don't recall any girlfriends, ever."

Roisin agrees with Tony's self-description as "a dreamer".

She said: "He dreamed of becoming a jockey the same way my kids dream about being footballers, but we never thought it would materialise as it has.

"But he's realistic, too, and success hasn't changed him one bit. Fatherhood has changed him more. Most of our chats now are all about the kids."

The jockey's single-minded determination to win has led to falls off thoroughbred horses at 30mph speeds.

He has fallen almost 700 times, breaking his middle and lower vertebrae, both shoulder blades, ribs, an ankle, cheekbones, a leg and a wrist.

Roisin worries about the damage to his 5ft 10in frame – he's tall for a National Hunt jockey and is constantly starving himself to keep his body fat down to about seven to eight per cent, and his weight to 10st, and he takes daily hour-long hot baths to sweat away up to four pounds.

"There's no point saying not worried," she said. "I am concerned about the long-term effects on his health, like arthritis. The only thing is he is healthy mentally and eats healthily, which should stand to him. He has taken some terrible falls but he's more worried about the horses."

The champion cried when his favourite horse Witchita Lineman fell fatally at Fairyhouse, after his legendary win on the horse at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival. He loved the never-say-die attitude of the phenomenally fast seven-year-old.

It broke its back at the first fence of the Irish Grand National on April 13, 2009 after carrying top weight in the race.

Roisin recalled: "He had a lot of respect for that horse. It gave him one of the best wins of his career and he was very upset when it died. He gets very emotionally attached to horses. He says they're like people – some you're compatible with and some you're not. He was very fond of Witchita Lineman."

Tony recently attended a fundraiser in Limerick for the young Templepatrick jockey Jonjo Bright, who was paralysed after a horrific fall at a point-to-point race in March.

"Anthony doesn't get over that often now but he and dad know Jonjo and his father well – they're a very close-knit community and they wanted to show their support for him," said Roisin.

"We see his little girl Eve more often; Chanelle brings her over to visit her wee cousin here.

"Chanelle is very good for Anthony. They're very well-suited and she allows him to be what he is. She's very well established herself, but she is a great support to him. He's very lucky to have the support he has – from all of his family."

Glamorous Galway girl who set AP's heart racing

Despite her husband's stunning success and her own millions, Chanelle McCoy (36) recently went back to work after her maternity leave. The Galway girl has her own high-powered career, jointly managing her father Michael Burke's pharmaceutical firm, which employs 250 people and turns over £50m a year.

A veterinary surgeon, Mr Burke named his company after his daughter when he founded it in 1983. Chanelle Pharmaceuticals has a presence in 80 countries, has over 700 products registered worldwide and employs over 220 staff, andChanelle spends much of her working weeks travelling throughout Europe and the Middle East.

When she's not jet-setting, glamorous blonde Chanelle lives a quiet life with Tony and their two children Eve (6) and baby Archie in their newly built five-bedroom house, with a self-contained annex and 30 stables, on 80 acres of idyllic pastureland in Berkshire.

She displays Tony's accolades on the mantelpiece and gives her favourite –the silver-plate BBC Sporting Personality trophy – pride of place in the hall.

With her slender figure, Chanelle dresses elegantly in labels such as Diane Von Furstenberg and Amanda Wakeley. She's friendly with Ruby Walsh's wife Gillian and is often seen with her in the parade ring. Away from the racecourse she prefers low-key nights to going to glitzy parties and premieres, and watches replays with Tony tucked up in bed.

The couple started IVF treatment in January 2007 after Tony had been warned that his use of hot baths to lose weight had led to fertility problems. As he wrote in his autobiography: "You don't think about your fertility when you are sitting in a piping hot bath for an hour every morning. You are thinking of keeping your weight in check, not that it might have a detrimental effect on your ability to procreate.''

A month after starting IVF treatment, Chanelle was pregnant and Eve was born in November 2007. Tony called her "our little miracle – the child we thought we'd never have".

Last year Chanelle tried for a second baby but the initial treatment failed. A second course of IVF worked and their son, Archie Peader, was born in August.

Chanelle has denied rumours that AP is ready to hang up his boots and prepare for a career as a trainer, but admits it's a possible long term plan, given their stables and land.

"We are considering all options. As AP says, everything is always for sale, except the wife," she said in a recent interview.

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