Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

McCoy has Grand National plan

Jockey Tony McCoy poses with his wife Chanelle and daughter Eve before the reception in his honour at Stormont, celebrating his 3,000th National Hunt race win earlier this year

He's a great guy AP McCoy. Just don't mention the Grand National.

I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

It is, after all, a little unkind to talk to the greatest jump jockey the world has ever known and immediately press him about the one thing he hasn't managed to achieve.

Win the Grant National, that is.

“The thing about the National is, well, it's a once a year thing,” he said yesterday at a special reception hosted in his honour by Sports Minister Nelson McCausland at Stormont.

“You need a lot of luck to win the National and, well, I haven't had it yet.”

Yet is the key. He may say that 4,000 winners is beyond him, but having reached the incredible milestone of 3,000 in February at the age off 34, who's to say what heights he may reach before he's finished?

Punters by their thousand searched for the name AP McCoy before settling on Butler's Cabin for this year's National, a pretty good 16-1 shot. He fell at the 22nd.

And for Aintree next year? “I don't know what horse I'll be on,” he said. “It's up to the boss JP McManus and what horses he has going. He decides, in the end.”

McManus is, as well as McCoy's boss, a great friend of Padraig Harrington and at home in Moneyglass in Co Antrim ahead of yesterday's reception, AP was glued to his television watching the Dubliner's ultimately fruitless battle with Tiger Woods at the Bridgestone Invitational.

“It was a terrific fight and I felt for Padraig,” McCoy, a 14-handicapper himself.

“Tiger just wore him down with an amazing shot and he never thought in a million years that he was going to hit that ball into the water.”

McCoy is perhaps Ulster's great unsung hero. While an airport has been named after George Best, outside racing circles McCoy remains relatively anonymous and could probably walk through CastleCourt unmolested.

Yet he has been Champion Jockey an astonishing 14 times, has ridden 289 winners in a single season and in guiding Restless D'Artaix home in the Tyser and Co Beginners Stakes at Plumpton in February became the first man in the history of national hunt racing to ride 3,000 winners.

“Anthony only ever wanted to know about horses,” his father Peadar said yesterday.

“Ever since we first put him on top of a horse at the age of 12, it was all he ever wanted to know about. It's the horses that's he interested in, riding them and winning races.”

Minister McCausland welcomed Tony, wife Chanelle and their 22-month-old daughter Eve to Stormont yesterday.

“This is an overdue recognition of one of our great sportsmen,” he said. “His achievements have not come about without pain and Anthony has broken almost every bone in his body along the way, but has always come back to compete.”

McCoy shrugs off such hardships as all part of the game.

“I am proud of all my achievements but I suppose beating Sir Gordon Richards' record (of 269 winners in a single season) was my own personal favourite,” he said. “I'm lucky enough to do a job that I love and it has been good to me and my family as well.

“For me it's all about the racing and trying to win.

“It doesn't matter to me that people pick my name out when they are trying to pick a winner, although it's always flattering to know that.”

And like every other golf fan, he'll be back in front of his TV this weekend for the final Major of the year. Any tips.

“I'd love Harrington to defend his title but it's hard to look past Woods. Never back against the favourite,” he said.

From the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

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