Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 19 April 2014

Grand National is the jewel in crown for Tony McCoy

In an age in which superlatives are bandied around with fanciful abandon, thank goodness for Tony McCoy.

The 14-times champion jockey is one of only a few sporting icons whose legendary status is utterly justified.

Shoehorned within McCoy's epic career are so many vivid landmarks that it seems almost sacrilege to use the adjective 'failure' in any assessment of the great man.

Yet in 14 barren previous attempts at Aintree, that was the case in the Grand National.

McCoy, ever the self-deprecating realist, admitted life in the saddle would never be complete without the National embossed upon his CV - even after he trotted past the 3,000-winner mark at Plumpton in February last year.

Thanks to Don't Push It, he need worry no more.

All jockeys have an unquenchable thirst to succeed, but none possess the doughty resilience of the often misunderstood McCoy.

Those who have in the past accused him of being moody or obtuse miss the point.

McCoy's stone-faced intensity is often mistaken for crabbiness and is undoubtedly one of his most important trademarks.

As is his bravery - as was succinctly evidenced a couple of years ago.

Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus would surely have had to look elsewhere for a partner to Butler's Cabin in the 2008 National, had McCoy been a weaker soul.

The jockey fractured two vertebrae in a fall in January that year and had to undergo several shivering rounds of Kriotherapy treatment to somehow enter calculations for the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree.

Without that inner desire to succeed, McCoy would neither be the man he is - nor the jockey whom we idolise.

Dead-eyed judgment has also been a key attribute to his success story. And while McCoy accepted it was a close call between choosing either Don't Push It or stablemate Can't Buy Time, vindication was swift and gloriously satisfying.

McCoy's legacy will forever be defined by his never-say-die attitude - a well-worn phrase which has, sadly, now become a convenient cliche.

A mere desire to succeed is, of course, always a welcome characteristic in the mindset of any rider, but it only tells the prologue to the McCoy odyssey.

Indisputable evidence of his distilled class can be unearthed by even a cursory glance through the archives.

It is not always exhibited aboard a wonder-horse - Ruby Walsh will be the first to admit the calibre of ammunition has helped engineer his particular legend - but in less salubrious environs, on board more humble animals.

Look at his ride, for instance, on O'Neill's Open Day in a lowly novice hurdle at Market Rasen in February.

Trading at 999-1 on the exchanges, the four-year-old gelding had gone at the game, utterly content to trundle home in his own time.

Then McCoy sprinkled his gold dust. Not through brute force, but through calculated cajoling allied with raw guile.

Open Day was suddenly stirred into a jumping frenzy, vaulting each obstacle with the panache of Pegasus, and zipped along the Lincolnshire straight for a most unlikely victory.

While his triumph in the National was on a far more grandiose scale, the moral of the story was the same: McCoy is a multi-faceted rarity, the likes of which will never be seen again.

Very similar to Frankie Dettori banishing his Derby hex aboard Authorized a few years ago, Don't Push It has done the sport a power of good - especially when racing's much-maligned marketing men are craving for a "narrative".

The greats of the game simply need to be remembered for winning great races and now McCoy has the complete set, casual observers might predict a happy retirement.

Those who have witnessed first hand the relentless genius of Tony McCoy will know otherwise.

Latest Sport News

Stats Centre