Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Racing

Legendary jockey Tony McCoy looks to the future after final race at Sandown

By Frank Brownlow

Tony McCoy will always be remembered for his Grand National victory on board Don't Push It in 2010 - but the Ulster legend has no doubt about his greatest achievement in racing.

McCoy rode 289 winners in the 2001/2 season, beating Sir Gordon Richards' long-standing record of 269.

McCoy - who turns 41 next week - rode a record 4,348 winners in total, and at the weekend was crowned champion jockey for an incredible 20th successive time.

"Obviously the Grand National was special but beating Sir Gordon's record rates above anything else," McCoy said.

And that feat is closely linked to his greatest regret.

Earlier this season it looked as though McCoy was going to blast past 289 winners and smash the mythical 300 barrier until injury - that ever-present occupational hazard in this toughest of sports - intervened.

"Missing out on the 300 broke my heart," he admitted. "It's the one thing in my career that I feel I have failed at.

"I had rode my fastest 50, my fastest 100, my fastest 150 - I felt I was finally getting the hang of it!

"I was nearly a month ahead of schedule (for riding 300 winners).

"I really thought the 300 was on but then I got injured.

"That still upsets me because I kind of tell myself I allowed myself to get injured.

"I went back after three or four days and shouldn't have been riding.

"I had another fall and was off for about a week. After that I was mentally gone.

"But winning the Grand National did give me a lot of fulfillment.

McCoy admits he would love to ride for years to come, but accepts he has made the right decision to get out while he is still in one piece.

"I'm glad that I was brave enough and had the bottle to decide to retire at the top," he said.

"The last really big day was the Grand National at Aintree. That's when I had to finally tell myself I wasn't going to be a jockey any more.

"Then at Cheltenham last week it hit home that that was the last time I would ever ride there. That was a tough thing to accept.

"I have always made my own decisions and I am going to have to deal with retirement in my own way.

"It's not that I don't believe in allowing people to help you, but I am going to have to deal with this myself.

"It's going to be strange not having to follow my usual strict regime and not having to get on the scales - I'm actually going to be able to have breakfast!

"But I do intend to keep myself pretty fit."

And McCoy paid tribute to the late Ulster trainer Billy Rock, where it all started over a quarter of a century ago.

"Billy pointed me in the right direction and I used to do anything to avoid school and go up to Billy's yard.

"Billy thought Jim Bolger's yard would be a good place for a young lad to learn. I went on to work with the likes of Toby Balding, Martin Pipe, Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus, really good people, so I have been blessed."

And McCoy intends to play a lot more golf.

"It won't be a substitute for riding horses. I will also be doing the school run - and that's great because my two kids are the most important part of my life," he said.

"I have been fine since announcing my retirement but that's because I have been riding most days.

"But I'm far too stubborn to think about making a comeback. Once I've made a decision that's it.

McCoy thanked the racing public for making the last two months of his career the most memorable of all as their appreciation helped him cope with the thought of retirement.

Since announcing his intention to retire in February, McCoy has enjoyed a farewell tour, culminating in Saturday's Sandown meeting when he had two third places, aboard Mr Mole and Box Office.

"It was very difficult to take it all in, the crowd, the people round the parade ring, the great racing public came out in force and I was very flattered and honoured by it all.

"To get a reception like that for doing something I've loved to do for pretty much all my life, I'm really going to miss it.

"I told all the lads to enjoy it while you're doing it because the end comes quickly.

"It's very nice to feel that I have the respect of people up and down the country.

"For the last 21 years I've ridden up and down the country pretty much full on but over the last two and a half months people have come out to give me a wonderful welcome and I'm very grateful of that."

AP McCoy, we salute you.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph