Sir Anthony. Sir Tony. Sir AP. Whichever way he fancies it, they’ll surely have to bestow a title upon him now. AP McCoy’s staggering achievement in riding 4,000 winners over jumps deserves state recognition and it must be odds-on that he receives a knighthood in the next round of honours. (There’s another campaign for Great British Racing to get behind).
For the best part of 20 years, McCoy’s quest for success on horseback has been relentless. Day after day, week after week, year after year, he has pursued his goal with the dedication and hunger of a man who cannot contemplate the notion of finishing second. Which is why he usually comes first.
His domination, in terms of number of winners, is such that the only question each season is who will finish second in the jump jockeys’ championship – and that’s usually the same person. Hopefully Richard Johnson’s time will come.
He has pursued his goal with the dedication and hunger of a man who cannot contemplate the notion of finishing second
Some would argue, perhaps with justification, that this is not a healthy state of affairs for any sport yet racing knows that AP is gold dust. The level of media interest in his latest milestone tells you all you need to know on that score. Our photographer, George Selwyn, followed the champ to Towcester and we have put together some wonderful pictures of this momentous day.
McCoy turns 40 next year and there has been inevitable speculation on how much longer he will continue to put his body on the line in the name of work.
None of the trio of John Francome, Peter Scudamore and Richard Dunwoody – all-time greats and multiple champion jockeys – continued past the age of 35, although in Dunwoody’s case, his hand was forced by the doctor.
Despite the long hours, constant risk of injury and pitiful diet – three dinners a week is normally sufficient – it doesn’t look like we’ll be waving goodbye to McCoy any time soon. And why should we when he’s riding as well as ever?
Five thousand might sound an unrealistic target, however I recall my thoughts on a sodden day at Plumpton almost five years ago when the same man hit the 3,000-mark on a horse called Restless D’Artaix. Surely he couldn’t rider another thousand winners?
Of all the goodwill messages that followed victory number 4,000, one of the more interesting comments came from Toby Balding, who brought McCoy to England as a conditional rider in 1994.
“Tony has achieved more than anyone’s expectations including, I’m sure, his own,” Balding said. “I’m not saying he is the best jockey I’ve ever seen, but he is certainly the most effective and most productive.”
McCoy’s previous boss, the shrewd Flat trainer Jim Bolger, has spoken of the time he heard his apprentice “screaming like a baby” after a bad gallops fall left the teenager with a broken leg. Bolger didn’t think young Anthony had what it takes to make it as a National Hunt jockey. Even the best get it wrong sometimes.
Away from the jumping action, Britain and Ireland enjoyed a fabulous Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, with triumphs courtesy of London Bridge, Outstrip and Chriselliam on the opening night followed by wins for Dank and Magician.
Having dominated the turf races for two-year-olds, it will be interesting to see how many European-based horses make the journey in 12 months time, when lasix, banned in this year’s juvenile events, is allowed to be used on all runners.
It follows a reversal of the decision to ban the anti-bleeding medication after opposition from American trainers and horsemen.
The Breeders’ Cup will only have themselves to blame if owners and trainers decide not to buy a plane ticket come 2014.