Ob­ses­sive, tough, the great­est — the real McCoy

The China Post - - SPORTS - BY PIRATE IR­WIN

“You’re not tough enough to be a jockey,” Ir­ish trainer Jim Bol­ger told a teenage Tony (AP) McCoy — sel­dom has a re­mark been taken so to heart and over 20 years later he bows out as per­haps the tough­est rider of all.

The 40-year-old North­ern Ir­ish­man — who rode his first win­ner Legal Steps aged 17 for Bol­ger — re­tires on Satur­day as cham­pion jockey for the 20th time, 12 more than the pre­vi­ous record­holder Peter Scu­d­amore.

How­ever, it is an even more re­mark­able statis­tic given his list of in­juries down the years.

Here is the man him­self reel­ing off his med­i­cal record in an in­ter­view: “I’ve bro­ken bones in my an­kle.

“I’ve bro­ken my tibia and fibula, I’ve bro­ken my wrists, I’ve frac­tured a cou­ple of lower ver­te­bras, I’ve bro­ken both shoul­der blades, both my col­lar bones, my cheek­bones and all my teeth are not mine any­more.”

“I think the pain thresh­old has got bet­ter, the falls are part and par­cel of the job,” he told Chan­nel Four re­cently.

“With re­gard to in­juries and re­cov­er­ing half the battle is men­tal, you have to get into the right frame of mind to re­cu­per­ate.

“My most dif­fi­cult in­jury re­ally was this sea­son as I re­ally thought I would ride 300 win­ners (which would have been an­other record) and then I got in­jured.

Dark Place

“I was, as they say, in a dark place for sev­eral weeks.”

Jonjo O’Neill, one of his clos­est friends and a provider of many of his win­ners who trains for McCoy’s chief re­tainer JP McManus, de­scribes the jockey as be­ing ob­ses­sive and stub­born.

“When AP couldn’t ride or walk you knew he was dy­ing,” O’Neill told The Guardian.

“The ribs, the col­lar­bone, the shoul­der were all fucked. I kept say­ing: ‘For fuck’s sake take a week off and it’ll heal. It just needs some time.’

“But he was go­ing for 300 win­ners and you couldn’t tell him any­thing. It was in his head — 300, 300, 300. You couldn’t blame him.”

Ever mind­ful of his good for­tune to have been able to profit from what he dis­arm­ingly de­scribes as “a hobby” he re­flects on those less for­tu­nate.

“Of course there are the equine fa­tal­i­ties (most no­tably Syn­chro­nised who only weeks af­ter they com­bined to land ‘the blue riband’ The Chel­tenham Gold Cup he had to be put down af­ter break­ing his leg in the Na­tional),” McCoy told Chan­nel Four.

“How­ever, there are my

col- leagues, some — too many — who lost their lives, or were se­ri­ously in­jured.

“I re­mem­ber a while ago I was sit­ting wait­ing at the traf­fic lights in New­bury and I was in­formed a col­league had died of his in­juries. I just sat there and burst into tears.”

In the eter­nal search for the great­est ever there will be those who vouch for the style and panache of the late Terry Biddlecombe, John Fran­come and Richard Dun­woody or the drive of Scu­d­amore and O’Neill, but the statis­tics don’t lie.

Apart from 20 jock­eys ti­tles he holds the record for most wins in a sea­son — flat or jumps — 289 set in 2002 — he sur­passed Dun­woody’s record for to­tal win­ners over jumps of 1699 also in 2002 and has amassed over 4000.

As ever McCoy — who also be­came the first jockey to win the pres­ti­gious BBC Sports Per­son­al­ity of the Year award in 2010 af­ter he at last won his first Grand Na­tional, on Don’t Push It — is self dep­re­ca­tory about his num­bers.

Drop­ping Off a Cliff

“I’d like to think I’ve got bet­ter,” said the fa­ther of two, whose wife Chanelle has been a ma­jor in­flu­ence on his ca­reer and de­ci­sion to re­tire.

“But sta­tis­ti­cally I’ve got worse since 2002!”

McCoy, who ad­mits some of the sac­ri­fices he made to suc­ceed in his goal were tough es­pe­cially leav­ing home at 15 and not be­ing around to see his younger sis­ter grow up, has a sur­pris­ing choice for one of his best rides when one con­sid­ers the plethora of great horses he tri­umphed on.

“I think Prid­well’s de­feat of Istabraq ( owned by McManus) in the 1998 Ain­tree Hur­dle was one of my best rides.

“He had a mind of his own and I think if he’d been a hu­man be­ing he’d have ended up in jail.”

While he will now have plenty of time to watch his beloved Ar­se­nal, O’Neill thinks ini­tially re­tire­ment will be tough for him.

“It’s like drop­ping off the end of a cliff. What is he go­ing to do? How will he re­place the in­ten­sity?” O’Neill, who bat­tled can­cer when he re­tired in 1986, told The Guardian.

“He’s just go­ing to go woom­mmfff (O’Neill mim­ics step­ping off a cliff). How do you han­dle that? How do you get used to that?”

McCoy for his part be­lieves he could have gone on — “although it could have re­sulted in di­vorce!” — but is happy enough to say farewell.

“I’m very lucky to have lived the life I wanted to live,” he said.

“It could have been a very sad life oth­er­wise.

AFP

Ly­dia Ko, of New Zealand, makes a tee shot on the fourth hole dur­ing round one of the Swing­ing Skirts LPGA Clas­sic pre­sented by CTBC at the Lake Merced Golf Club in San Fran­cisco, Cal­i­for­nia on Thurs­day, April 23.

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