Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards: Tony McCoy can't stop winning
Tony McCoy had enjoyed what for him, with his hectic schedule, was a reasonably relaxing day.
Due to race at Bangor on Dee in Wales on Monday, the meeting was abandoned allowing Tony to take his six-year-old girl Eve to school in the morning.
It was a rare treat for daddy and daughter. School runs and McCoy's job, which takes him all over the UK and Ireland in search of winners, do not mix.
There was another unusual aspect to his morning — he scoffed some scrambled eggs and bacon, easing up just a little on his strict diet.
And he topped it off at night with a tasty meal at the Belfast Telegraph Sports Awards where he was named our 2013 Sports Star of the Year, having flown into Northern Ireland from Heathrow Airport.
For a man who has licked the flavour off crisps and thrown them away in a bid to stick to his ideal racing weight, this was Tony McCoy letting his hair down!
Mind you, he was back in the saddle the next day, and yes, of course, he was a winner with his mount Rose Of The Moon romping home in the 1.55 at Wetherby.
Checking out in the early hours from the Ramada Plaza hotel yesterday while the rest of us were still having sweet dreams clearly didn't faze him.
That's the thing about McCoy. Nothing much does. He's broken virtually every bone in his body and just gets back on the horse all over again and again.
It's fascinating to listen to him speak about his outstanding career.
We're in his hotel room before he gets suited and booted for the awards.
He tells me his heart was set on being a jockey before he had left primary school.
“I liked sport when I was growing up, football, snooker and golf but I'd say that from an early age, maybe eight or nine, I wanted to be a jockey.
“I was even more definite about it by the time I was 12.
“I knew that was all I wanted to do. I was riding horses from I was very young and when I was 12 I used to go down to a friend of my dad's, the late Billy Rock, who was a trainer in Cullybackey.
“I'd go there every weekend during my summer holidays and I was with him from then until I left school.
“It was him that suggested I go to Jim Bolger's yard in Kilkenny.
“It was tough but for any young person who wants to be successful you should go and work for people that are high achievers and Jim Bolger was very much a high achiever.”
It was with Flat trainer Bolger that McCoy rode his first winner at the age of 17, in 1992.
He says: “I remember it well. It was in Thurles and on a horse called Legal Steps. After that I just wanted to get another and then another.”
McCoy, having switched to National Hunt racing early on in his racing life, now has over 4000 winners and in the coming months will be crowned champion jockey for the 19th consecutive season. Amazing.
“I'm proud of lasting 19 seasons in such a dangerous sport and to be champion jockey for 19 seasons I'm really proud of.
“There are occasions when you have a lot of injuries and when times are tough so surviving for 19 years, even if I'm saying that about myself which I don't like doing, is a real achievement.”
For all the success and the fame and fortune that has come with it, McCoy remains remarkably unaffected.
“I'm just an ordinary person. I've no reason to be anything else and I'm no different to anyone else. That's the way I am. My family wouldn't let me be any different that's for sure,” he says.
“There will come a time when I won't be a jockey and I'll be even more normal then.”
So when will that time come when he calls it a day?
“I'm lucky in that I love what I do but I'm aware that I can't go on forever. Hopefully I'll be able to get out when the time is right. There may come a time when I'm not loving my job any more, but I'm not sure when that will happen or if it ever will,” he states before adding that he has not ruled out riding 5000 winners.
He talks lovingly about his kids, Eve and baby boy Archie. Would he welcome them following in his footsteps?
“I wouldn't like Eve to be a jockey because it is a very physically tough sport,” says the protective father.
“I think it's too physically demanding for a girl to be honest. I don't think Eve ever will be because she's very much like her mother, she'd rather go shopping and dress up rather than be a jockey.
“If Archie wants to be a jockey so be it, I'd rather he'd play golf or football and I could follow him around and watch him, but I'll support them whatever they choose to do just like my own parents all those years ago.”
He’s simply one of our true sporting greatest
TonyMcCoy. Sporting great. Legend. Hero. And the most down to earth bloke you will ever meet.
Superstar he may be, but there's no airs and graces about this fella, horse racing’s greatest jockey and one of the finest sportsmen of all time.
Doesn't it make you feel good that he's from our little corner of the world?
Tony attended the Belfast Telegraph Sports awards on Monday evening, when he won the top prize at the glittering ceremony.
He was a hugely popular winner... you could reach out and touch the love for the 39-year-old from Moneyglass, County Antrim, as he collected his trophy.
Giant sporting figures like Martin O'Neill, Gerry Armstrong, Pat Jennings, Billy Hamilton, David Healy, Barry McGuigan, Syd Millar, Jack Kyle, Tommy Bowe and Mickey Harte were hanging on his every word.
Thought provoking, funny and honest, the 500-strong crowd left the ceremony with even more respect for the man known as AP than they had when they arrived... and that's saying something.
He wasn't just a star on stage. He was a star off it as well, talking away to anyone who approached him as if he'd known them for years. It must be a family trait because his lovely mum Claire is exactly the same.
McCoy had an early start in the morning — he checked out of his hotel at 6.20am to catch a flight back to England in order to race at Wetherby yesterday — but he didn't go to bed until everyone who wanted an autograph or picture got one.
There were hundreds of requests.
Some of our most famous sports stars, in awe of his achievements, longevity and bravery, were even asking for a signature.
McCoy is a hero to the heroes. And yet he sees himself as just an ordinary bloke, who is no better than anyone else.
That's one of the reasons why we love, admire and cheer him on so much.
The guy's a class act. Northern Ireland is fortunate to call AP McCoy one of our own.
Presentation from Pat was magic for me
Tony McCoy had just been announced as the 2013 Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year.
As he made his way to the stage to receive his award, the great and good of Northern Ireland sport stood to acclaim and applaud the greatest jump jockey of all time.
As modest as they come, McCoy appeared a little embarrassed by the adulation.
Asked by co-presenter Claire McCollum about reaching the astonishing landmark of 4,000 wins, Tony turned to his left to address Northern Ireland, Tottenham and Arsenal goalkeeping great Pat Jennings, in the presentation party for the prestigious award.
“It is a bigger honour for me to be handed this trophy by this man,” said McCoy.
“When I was 10 I queued up outside a shop to get an autograph from Pat and I would still queue up outside a shop today to get his autograph, so to receive the award from Pat Jennings means a great deal.
“I supported Arsenal when I was a kid because of Pat and a lot of other Irish lads from the north and south who played then, like Pat Rice, Sammy Nelson, Liam Brady and Frank Stapleton.
“I'm just glad Pat wasn't playing with Spurs at the time, because I could never imagine myself as a Spurs supporter,” he added, drawing laughs inside the hall.
Tony chatted about his family, who were in the audience, poking gentle fun at his mum Claire ‘who never normally goes to events like this' his brother and his sisters.
It's evident the McCoy clan has a strong bond.
The next subject was the possibility of joining motorcyclist Michael Dunlop, another Tele award winner, on his bike to experience the buzz!
This was the Tony McCoy few get to see...a man with a sense of fun complementing the serious sports star out to pass the post first every time he puts on silks.
When the conversation returned to himself he revealed that despite all his success he still had doubts about his ability, questioning whether he really was all that good, adding that he was forever committed to getting better.
It was a statement that resonated with many sports stars in the room, who for all their talent can be filled with self doubt, craving improvements every time they compete.
Pressed on that 4,000th winner, when he rode the JP McManus owned and Jonjo O'Neill trained Mountain Tunes to an unforgettable victory in November at the little known Towcester racecourse, McCoy stated: “I was delighted it came at Towcester. There was a great crowd there. It is a race track that has a free entry during the week and it was only an hour from home and a lot of people got there.
“It was on one of Jonjo's horses and one of JP's as well which I always wanted it to be for those two and it couldn't have worked out any better.
“It was great having my wife Chanelle and children there at the course.
“My dad was there too along with my brother Colm. They had been over in England for a day or two to try and see me get the 4,000th winner.
“I'm not sure how much longer my brother could have skived off work for so I was glad I did it when I did!”
Questions for AP
SB: Tony, it's well known that you are a huge Arsenal fan. They are top of the Premier League table at the moment. Do you think they can stay there and win the title?
TM: Hopefully. Arsenal made a great start to the season and have kept going when a lot of people thought they would falter. Arsene Wenger has done a fantastic job. Manchester City have an unbelievable squad, but hopefully Arsenal can do it.
SB: You are planning to go to watch Arsenal's mouthwatering Champions League last-16 clash against Bayern Munich. Can the Gunners gain revenge for losing to the German side in the competition last year?
TM: I think Arsenal can beat Bayern, but I'm kinda hoping they don't. Of course I'd love to see Arsenal win the Champions League, but the further we go in that competition it could have an effect on us in the Premier League. If you gave me the choice of the two trophies it would be a hard call, but winning the title over 38 games is probably more of an achievement, so if out of the two of them we won the Premier League I'd be a very happy man.
SB: Last year you had your first novel called Taking the Fall published. Are you planning to write any more books?
TM: Yeah, I might do, The last one sold pretty well which was good. Making it interesting is the thing, but yeah I might give it another go.
SB: Who do you admire in sport?
TM: I like a lot of sports and admire anyone who is successful and anyone who can stay at the top of their sport for a long time.
SB: If I could guarantee you a victory in any race in the world, which one would you choose?
TM: The Cheltenham Gold Cup every day. Winning the Grand National was fantastic, but the Cheltenham Gold Cup is the pinnacle of our sport and that's the one I'd love to win again.
Belfast Telegraph Digital