Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Tony McCoy is Grand Master

AP McCoy's sister receives the Hall of Fame award from Pat Jennings.
Claire McCollum and Pat Jennings.
Player of the Year, boxer Paddy Barnes accepts his award from boyhood hero Barry McGuigan.

How fitting that Tony McCoy should be inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame last night, just as he completed the full set of Grand National victories.

The Moneyglass man landed the Welsh National at the weekend, riding Synchronised to victory at Chepstow.

It was less than a year ago that McCoy finally won the biggest race of the lot, the Grand National at Aintree. The Irish and Scottish versions were already in the bag.

For a man who has dominated his sport for the best part of two decades, it had been quite a while in coming.

McCoy has been champion jockey for the last 15 years but in all that time he had never managed to win the Grand National — but all that changed last April when the Ulsterman rode Don’t Push It to an emotional victory.

He had won the Grand National at his 15th attempt to cap a career of supreme achievement.

In the wake of that victory, McCoy revealed a side to his character not often seen.

The usual cool exterior gave way to jubilation and tearful joy.

Year in, year out McCoy is the best in his sport — by some distance.

His career has seen him break one record after another.

He has ridden more winners than anyone in a single season — 289.

In 2009 he rode his 3,000th winner — no-one else had ever reached the 2,000 mark.

The Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and King George VI Chase are all on McCoy’s illustrious CV.

On Saturday he will ride Kauto Star in the double Cheltenham Gold Cup winner’s bid for a record fifth sucessive King George victory.

It was that Grand National triumph that really propelled McCoy into the public consciousness — and underlined just what an outstanding sportsman he really is.

And that was reflected when the British public voted McCoy the overwhelming winner of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year last month — the first jockey ever to win the award.

“I used to think a lot about winning the Grand National — but I never really thought about winning Sports Personality of the Year,” he smiled.

“And now to be inducted into the Belfast Telegraph Hall of Fame, alongside so many other great sporting stars, is fantastic and a real honour.”

McCoy continued: “If anyone asks you what you do for a living and you say you are a jockey, the first thing that crops up is the Grand National and whether you’ve won it.

“I had won everything else but not the National so now I have put that right,” he said.

And, at 36 years of age, he intends to keep going for a few years yet in this toughest of sports.

“I get asked about retirement a lot. I’d never thought about it before winning the Grand National but people keep asking me about it — so I can’t not think about it.

“I won’t still be riding in four or five years,” revealed McCoy.

“At the end of the day I’m a jump jockey so I’m likely to end up in the back of an ambulance from time to time. Injury could decide retirement,” said a man who has broken most of the bones in his body given the jump jockey’s lot of a fall in roughly one in every 10 races.

McCoy, at 5’ 10’’, is tall for a jockey — which makes for a constant battle with his weight.

His many wins have come against a backdrop of meagre rations and daily steam baths.

And now, after his Welsh National triumph, Tony McCoy has won the lot, including a deserved place in our own Hall of Fame.

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