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Wife Chanelle may have played a leading role in Tony McCoy's decision to quit

By Claire McNeilly

Published 08/04/2015

The couple with their children Eve and Archie
The couple with their children Eve and Archie
Tony McCoy's wife Chanelle at the Galway races
Tony McCoy in his distinctive racing colours
Jonjo O'Neill

One of Tony McCoy's closest friends has hinted that the champion jockey's wife played a role in his shock decision to quit horse racing.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill, who has helped the Ulsterman to more than half his 20 titles, said he had no idea that the 40-year-old was contemplating retirement until Chanelle McCoy confided in him.

O'Neill, a former champion jockey himself, was speaking ahead of Saturday's Grand National, when the legendary 'AP' hopes to steer Shutthefrontdoor to victory in his final appearance in the famous old race at Aintree.

McCoy has hinted that he would hang up his reins immediately should he win the National for a second time this weekend, but O'Neill said he was concerned the race ace - who admits to being consumed by his sport - will miss the adrenalin rush.

It was Mrs McCoy who first indicated last October that the Moneyglass man's illustrious racing career could be drawing to a close.

"Chanelle mentioned his retirement to me first," Mr O'Neill said in an interview with The Guardian.

"She said: 'This could be his last season.' I said: 'Don't be bloody soft.

"'He's riding better than ever. Why would he retire?'

"But that was me talking selfishly. He's married. He's got two kids and the falls are bad. You don't get up so easy any more.

"You're getting older. It doesn't matter who you are."

McCoy has been jump racing's champion jockey for two decades - with the last 11 victories secured mostly on horses owned by JP McManus and trained by O'Neill.

This weekend, all eyes will be on him to see if he and Shutthefrontdoor, also trained by O'Neill, can triumph in a career-ending finale on Merseyside.

But O'Neill - who struggled with his own retirement from racing - has spoken of the loss he believes his pal and stable mate will have to confront.

"It's like dropping off the end of a cliff," he said, voicing his concern over the father-of-two's future out of the saddle.

"What is he going to do? How will he replace the intensity?

"He's just going to go woommmfff. [O'Neill mimics stepping off a cliff].

"How do you handle that? How do you get used to that?"

Nevertheless, O'Neill is confident that AP - who is dad to Eve (7) and one-year-old Archie - will land on his feet off the track, whatever he decides to do.

He said: "I think he's got something with JP and maybe Channel 4.

"I'm not sure he'll be happy being a pundit but he's lucky.

"He's got Chanelle and she's a very sound girl."

Injuries sustained in falls at Worcester and then Wetherby threw legendary ironman McCoy off course for his target of 300 winners this season.

"It was bad," O'Neill told The Guardian.

"When AP couldn't ride or walk you knew he was dying. The ribs, the collarbone, the shoulder were all f*****.

"I kept saying... 'take a week off and it'll heal. It just needs some time.' But he was going for 300 winners and you couldn't tell him anything."

He added: "It was on the cards. But the injuries did for him."

McCoy - who is currently on 228 winners - gave up the ghost of 300 after an injury break, but a triumph this weekend would provide a fairytale ending.

O'Neill said: "If we win it will be fantastic. It will be a lifetime achievement."

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