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McCoy set to Push for National glory

By Robert Fenton

Fourteen races and no winners. Not the sort of statistic one normally associates with Tony McCoy.

Jump racing’s top man has an unblemished record as champion jockey for 14 consecutive seasons during which he has won all the top races except one — the John Smith’s Grand National which has its 163rd running at Aintree tomorrow.

He bids to put that right on the Jonjo O’Neill-trained Don’t Push It and before that he will insist on his name on the racecard being AP McCoy — not Tony or Anthony.

Racing For Change, a group set up by the British Horse Racing Authority to give racing a PR makeover, have suggested that jockeys should have their full name beside their horse instead of initials as is currently the case.

And they aim to start this with the Grand National field.

For some reason RFC believe that this will help promote the sport among non-racing fans.

But McCoy is known in racing circles as ‘AP’ (Anthony Peadar) — and that’s how he rightly wants it to remain on racecards.

He is not a man for gimmicks that will have little impact on the sport. And it certainly won’t have any influence on the National which creates its own sporting dynamic without the need for additional nonsensical frills.

“My mother would probably like Anthony but I am known to all my colleagues as AP and that’s how I want it to stay,” said the man from Moneyglass in Co Antrim.

Throughout a fantastic career which has seen him at the top of his profession for 14 years, the National continues to elude him.

When asked about this, Tony replied: “I suppose some people may regard me as a failure unless I win a National — I might even do so myself.”

To which Carl Llewellyn, twice a National winner himself, retorted: “And then he’ll consider himself a failure if he doesn’t win two Nationals!”

McCoy has had three thirds in the race — in 2001 and 2002 aboard Martin Pipe’s Blowing Wind (as the 8-1 favourite in 2002), and in 2006 on Jonjo O’Neill’s 5-1 joint-favourite Clan Royal which looked like winning the previous year until being taken out by a loose horse.

So what are AP’s chances tomorrow?

The fact that he took his time before deciding on Don’t Push It, ahead of Can’t Buy Time and Arbor Supreme, suggests the great man is not in a confident mood.

Don't Push It won with McCoy on board in the John Smith’s Handicap Chase at last year's Grand National meeting and he is down to 25-1.

But McCoy’s probably wishing that Denman was running this time instead of next year.

That could be the horse that lands him the Grand prize, but then his great mate and rival

Ruby Walsh may well have something to say on that as he will have first call on anything from the Paul Nicholls yard.

Incidentally, bookmakers Paddy Power have pledged to give horse racing fans a day to remember by promising to buy everyone in Liverpool a pint if AP breaks his hoodoo.

The firm have teamed up with former Liverpool and Republic of Ireland star John Aldridge to sponsor a free bar all night in ‘Aldo’s Place’ to all and sundry.

Paddy Power said: “If this is the year in which Tony will finally break his Grand National duck, I can personally guarantee there won’t be a sober soul in Liverpool tomorrow night.”

Other great jockeys like John Francome and Jonjo O’Neill never won the National but AP will not relish such a comparison.

After all, he is the greatest of them all and he’ll not quit until he hits this particular bullseye.

I’ve no doubt he will, but raising a glass to Tony may just have to wait a little longer.

McCoy’s Grand National record this century

2000: Dark Stranger (unseated)

2001: Blowing Wind (3rd)

2002: Blowing Wind (3rd)

2003: Iris Bleu (pulled up)

2004: Jurancon II (fell)

2005: Clan Royal (carried out)

2006: Clan Royal (3rd)

2007: L’Ami (10th)

2008: Butler’s Cabin (fell)

2009: Butler’s Cabin (seventh)

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