independent

Wednesday 23 April 2014

McCoy a model of true grit and enduring quality

Brilliant jump-jockey keeps breaking boundaries

Pictured at the Croke Park Hotel / Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Luncheon 2013 were from left: Roy Keane, Republic of Ireland Assistant Manager; Stephen Rae, Editor-in-Chief, Independent Newspapers; Rachael Wyse, Independent Sports Columnist; Martin O'Neill, Republic of Ireland Manager and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney.
Pictured at the Croke Park Hotel / Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year Luncheon 2013 were from left: Roy Keane, Republic of Ireland Assistant Manager; Stephen Rae, Editor-in-Chief, Independent Newspapers; Rachael Wyse, Independent Sports Columnist; Martin O'Neill, Republic of Ireland Manager and FAI Chief Executive John Delaney.

In a sense, it was apt that on the day that Irish Independent readers voted AP McCoy their Sportstar of the Year, the insatiable work ethic that has propelled him to 18 successive champion jockey titles saw the man himself soldiering away at Catterick.

He wouldn't have it any other way. The Yorkshire garrison town venue is a bleak outpost that your average riding mortal wouldn't think twice about missing on a cold December afternoon.

McCoy, though, is different, and that undying willingness to go anywhere in search of any winner is what has propelled him into the pantheon of racing immortality.

Neither of his two winners yesterday -- one of which was suitably named Forthefunofit -- will ever figure on the big stage. However, each represented one more obscure opportunity of a victory in themselves, something that McCoy has never knowingly passed up.

The Moneyglass, Co Antrim-born phenomenon's incredible career has often gone underappreciated by the wider public, but he finally received something like the recognition he deserves by hitting the mind-boggling 4,000-winner mark aboard Mountain Tunes at Towcester last month.

DOUBLE

He turns 40 next spring, but any notion that he might begin resting on his laurels is anathema. On Monday, after a fruitless trip to Navan on Sunday, a Ffos Las double brought him to the 150-winner mark in a campaign for a 17th time.

He is now over 4,030 winners into a scarcely conscionable quest for 5,000 that, much to his loving wife Chanelle's dismay, he refuses to rule out on the basis that it's simply too late to expect that sanity might prevail.

Galway native Chanelle has threatened to "cut up his licence" if he commits to spending the next five years chasing the landmark. McCoy, insatiable and undeterred, has countered typically: "It's a bit of a touchy subject, but she'll be all right. She'll come round."

To give his feats some context, only two jump jockeys in the history of the game have ridden more than 2,000 winners, with frequent championship runner-up Richard Johnson currently around the 2,500 mark.

The fact that McCoy has never not been champion tells its own story, and it is frightening to think that some of his most promising young colleagues were not even born when he secured his first crown in 1996.

Famous victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Champion Chase and Aintree Grand National will ensure that his glorious legacy is not one of merely numbers, but it is his relentless readiness to grind out results at nondescript meetings like yesterday's at a modest fixture in the north of England that have come to define him.

Such persistent drive and ambition is hard to fathom. Imagine, it is already 11 years since he conquered Richard Dunwoody's then record jumps tally of 1,699 at Uttoxeter.

Day in, day out, surviving on a spartan diet in one of the most physically demanding and punishing sports, he just keeps on keeping on.

Indeed, the man who in recent times has become synonymous with two of racing's other most revered legends in Jonjo O'Neill and JP McManus, lends rare substance to the term 'iron constitution', as evidenced by his miraculous recovery after fracturing three vertebrae in January 2008 in time for Cheltenham that March.

That renowned fortitude is something that McCoy believes will prolong his Peter Pan endurance.

"Now, my pain threshold is better than ever," he said of his injuries on Monday. "You get used to it. The more it has happened to me, the more I've been able to cope."

Yesterday, in a video message, McCoy said it was an "honour to follow in the footsteps of Roy Keane, Ruby Walsh, Aidan O'Brien and Katie Taylor" by winning the Sportstar of the Year award.

It was our privilege to be able to facilitate the readers' tribute to such a worthy sporting hero.

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