Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Good news for rivals: Tony McCoy’s almost done

Tony McCoy

Tony McCoy has revealed that thoughts of riding off into the sunset started to enter his head after his emotional Grand National triumph.

“But only because people started asking me when I was going to retire,” laughed the man who has dominated his sport for the last 15 years.

And although the 36-old-old admits he doesn’t know himself when he will call it a day, he did reveal that the finishing line could be in sight.

That Grand National triumph on board Don’t Push It was the final frontier for McCoy — the only big race to elude him happened to be the biggest of the lot.

He became the first jockey ever to hit the 3000 winner mark last year, but dismisses the possibility of reaching 4000.

“Four thousand winners is a long way away — you could be looking at four or five years and I won’t still be riding in four or five years,” he said.

Having been champion jockey for the last 15 years, he also admits that losing the title could see him call it a day.

“From about four or five years ago — after having been champion jockey for 10 or 11 years — I started thinking that if I was no longer champion jockey, it would be because I was no longer as good as I had been.

“And I wouldn’t want people thinking that I’m not as good as I was.

“Fear of failure is there. It’s always there. The more you win, the more you fear not winning. It’s always in your head.

“The only way I would try to regain the title if I lost it, would be if I lost it as a result of injury.

“That would be a completely different scenario.

“It wouldn’t be as if I’d lost my grip on the title.

“Retirement’s not something I even think about apart from the fact I get asked about it a lot.

“If you are thinking about retirement, you probably should retire. I’ve never thought about it apart from since winning the Grand National and that’s because people keep asking me about it so I can’t not think about it.

“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 McCoy, who has broken most of the bones in his body in the course of a career in one of the most dangerous sports around.

“When I retire I don’t plan to train horses but if I did I would probably be more interested in training Flat horses. It would be something different.

“I don’t really know what I will do. I’ll certainly eat more.

“I’m not a vain person but I will keep myself fit because I like feeling fit.

“So I won’t let myself go — I won’t shoot up to 15 stones.

“Even when I’m not racing and I put on a few pounds I start to feel lethargic and I don’t like that feeling.”

McCoy has little chance of piling on the pounds on his current rations, as he wages his personal war against weight.

And he has a bit of advice for slimmers — forget about diets!

But for a man who regards a couple of jelly babies as one of his meals, McCoy follows what would seem to most an extremely strict regime.

At 5ft 10in, McCoy’s natural weight is around 12 stone, but the County Antrim rider has been known to get down to close to 10 stone for races.

“Diets are a waste of time because no-one can stick to them. You might last a few weeks but then you just get sick of them.

“Although I have to watch what I eat, if I’m away from racing I will eat a load of rubbish — sweets, chocolate, whatever.

“As well as that, I can eat pretty much what I want if I keep it in small quantities,” he said.

He doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke and also battles weight gain with hot baths and saunas, as well as running on a treadmill. Being so in tune with his weight, he rarely steps onto the scales.

“I basically always just know what weight I am,” said McCoy in an interview — backed by the Racing For Change organisation — at the Injured Jockey's Fund's Oaksey House in Lambourn.

McCoy can shed up to 10lbs in a day when he has to but when he is going down to anywhere near 10 stone there is one proviso.

“The horse has to win,” he laughed.

McCoy’s first Grand National success — at the 15th attempt — has propelled him to favourite for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. His chief challenger is another Ulsterman, golfer Graeme McDowell.

McCoy finds it comical that a man virtually unknown outside his own sport — in his opinion — should be in the running for the award.

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

“I appreciate being mentioned (as a contender for Sports Personality) because a lot of people wouldn’t even know who I am. There are higher profile sports people more likely to win it than I am. But it’s flattering to be mentioned.

“What Graeme McDowell achieved was amazing. Winning the US Open and clinching the Ryder Cup was special. He deserves to be favourite to win Sports Personality,” said golf fan McCoy modestly.

And the Moneyglass man has ruled out developing an American accent to compete with Stateside-sounding McDowell, who hails from Portrush.

“McDowell obviously left home when he was young and I left home at 15 and picked up a bit of a southern accent during four years in Kilkenny.

“I have lived in England for the past 16 years but I haven’t got an English accent.

“I think it depends on the period in your life when you go. If you go away when you’re young you tend to pick up an accent more easily.

“I don’t get back to Moneyglass as much as I’d like but I am very close to my family back home. There’s so much racing now but I go home whenever I can.

“My little girl Eve is three now and I’d like her to see her cousins back home as much as possible. At times in the past I’ve thought I’d like to go back home but, especially since Eve was born, I’m more and more settled here in England.”

And although he has set a plethora of records, McCoy confessed it was a relief to finally land the Grand National.

“It’s one of the biggest sporting events in the world. 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,” he said.

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

“It’s difficult to appreciate how much luck is needed to win the National.

“I don’t feel I’m a better jockey for winning it. But it’s great to have won it all the same.”

McCoy can, at last, retire a happy man.

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