Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Tony McCoy a breed apart

By Steven Beacom

Anthony Peter McCoy has won more trophies than Real Madrid ... and now he has another one to add to his bulging collection with the legendary jockey last night named the 2013 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year.

McCoy received a wonderful reception from a star-studded and packed audience at the Ramada Plaza Hotel in Belfast after it was announced he had won the top prize at the glittering ceremony.

The 39-year-old, surrounded by happy and proud family members, walked to the stage having beaten off fierce competition from World Champion cyclist Martyn Irvine, European Champion boxer Carl Frampton and World Superbike runner-up Eugene Laverty, who made up a highly impressive short-list.

McCoy has created plenty of history in his stunning career and he produced some more at the Belfast Telegraph awards becoming the first person to claim the Sports Star trophy having previously been inducted into our Hall of Fame.

The man from Moneyglass is a breed apart.

He has of course enjoyed many wonderful years, but few were as memorable as 2013. In the first part of last year he won his 18th jump jockey title and won so many races in the second half that he is well on his way to a 19th consecutive title.

The undoubted highlight though and most memorable moment came when he rode his 4,000th winner. A bewildering feat.

The build up to that victory intensified the closer McCoy got to reaching the astonishing landmark with everybody talking about where and when he would finally do it.

It came on November 7, 2013 at Towcester Racecourse.

Towcester isn't exactly Cheltenham or Aintree, but in many ways it was fitting that McCoy achieved number 4,000 at one of the less celebrated venues in the sport.

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That's because the greatest jump jockey ever rides as hard at the smaller meetings, attended by a few hundred spectators, as he does at the big racing festivals, with thousands in the stands roaring him on.

It's one of the many reasons to admire him.

Big or small, he'll always give his all.

Prior to that brisk November day, bar those in the racing world, few people would have known anything about the Northamptonshire course.

Now Towcester will forever go down in history as the place where AP McCoy hit 4,000 not out.

The race was the Weatherbys Novices' Hurdle, the 3.10 and Tony's mount was Mountain Tunes, a horse trained by Jonjo O'Neill and owned by JP McManus, both long-time friends of the Co Antrim rider.

With two hurdles left Mountain Tunes looked out of the running, but with McCoy on board anything is possible. Displaying that insatiable desire for success and a fanatical will to win only the greatest sports stars possess he refused to give up.

That, combined with his expert horsemanship, saw McCoy draw level and pass those ahead of him and cross the line first past the post.

His wife Chanelle, daughter Eve, son Archie, dad Peader and brother Colm were at the course to celebrate the extraordinary achievement while mum Claire and his sisters were back home in Northern Ireland cracking open the champagne.

It was a monumental day for horse racing and a glorious one for AP, who was hailed by famous sports stars, politicians and celebrities alike.

To put the 4,000 in perspective, the next most successful jump jockey in history has ridden just over 2,500 winners.

Reflecting on that afternoon at Towcester, McCoy said: “It was fantastic. I'm very proud of it.

“It was the first time that I felt really proud and happy for what I'd achieved and felt brave enough to say that I was proud of what I'd achieved.

“I was pleased to bring some good publicity to the sport because racing has been very good to me.”

And McCoy has been great for racing.

He himself has acknowledged the dangers of his occupation — “it's one of the few sports I can think of where an ambulance follows you around when you are doing your job” — and has broken just about every bone in his body throughout his career.

At the start of this season he punctured his lung, broke his ribs and fractured his sternum.

Incredibly this teak tough Ulsterman was back in action after missing just three and-a-half weeks!

What drives him on? He'll tell you ‘a fear of failure'.

Now writing novels and hosting his own radio show, it's little wonder, with his 40th birthday in May, the question on everyone's lips is how long he will continue racing.

Could he really go on to reach 5,000 winners?

“I'm enjoying my job at the moment so I want to keep going as long as I can,” he says, before adding that when he does retire he wants to go out at the top.

That's where the 2013 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year is right now. He's without question one of the greatest sporting heroes Northern Ireland has ever have. Icon, legend, genius. He's all of them and more.

There's nobody quite like AP McCoy.

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