The real McCoy

Anthony Peter McCoy is variously known as Tony or AP but will always be definitively referred to as one of the greatest jockeys in the long history of the turf. That status was assured even before he notched up his 4,000th career winner at Towcester in England on Thursday. The round figure represents a staggering statistical summation of the racing phenomenon that is this 39- year-old Irishman.

Just three other jockeys have ridden 4,000 winners in British and Irish racing's long history, and those three, Sir Gordon Richards, Lester Piggott, and Pat Eddery, all rode on the flat. It would once have been unthinkable that a jockey riding over jumps – where serious injury is an everyday reality that challenges mental resolve as well as physical toughness – could join such elite company.

But, as well as breaking almost every bone in his body over the past two decades, McCoy has broken the mould when it comes to riding winners. He has nearly 1,500 more than any other National Hunt jockey, and, at an age when most jump riders are contemplating retirement, he continues to exhibit a near-obsessive devotion to passing the winning post first.

Famously willing to travel anywhere if there’s a chance of a winner, the Irishman has also proven himself on the biggest stages of all, including the Cheltenham festival and famously at the Aintree Grand National in 2010 when Don’t Push It provided McCoy with victory.


But it is in the day-in, day-out job of finishing first that McCoy has carved his legacy, and while statistics alone cannot be a true measure of sporting greatness, and a definitive answer to the question of who the greatest jockey of all might be is impossible to say, it is equally impossible to imagine such a discussion without McCoy figuring prominently in it.

Records are made to be broken, and the famously competitive Irishman has admitted he hopes to be dead before, or if, his eventually are. Happily it looks like McCoy’s longevity isn’t going to be confined just to the saddle.