independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Tony McCoy: 'I'm no genius. I'm just doing what I love to do'

Having my family all around me when I rode my 4,000th winner definitely made this occasion one of the best days of my life

Tony McCoy

Well, what a relief; not just for me, but for everyone who has had to follow me around this week. That was my over-riding emotion after Mountain Tunes finally got me to 4,000 at Towcester.

There are any amount of people who don't think I'm the best jockey, but I've got to the stage now that I'm happy with what I've done at last. It's the one achievement in my life I'm proud of. I couldn't have done it without loving my job. How many people are lucky enough to go out there and get paid to do their hobby?

If I get to the point where I'm not loving it anymore I'll stop but, at this rate, someone might have to tell me when to stop. I hope I'll be sensible enough to quit on my own terms but my biggest problem is that I enjoy what I do too much, and if I was ever given one wish it would be to come back as another person, and be able to start this all over again and have another go.

Of course there have been low points along the way. The lowest was probably when Richard Davis died after a fall at Southwell. I was a conditional jockey with him, rode in the race and I can remember getting the call as if it was yesterday – I just burst into tears.

HOSPITAL

There have been others since and the last two weekends I've been to see JT McNamara in hospital in Southport. He was a big part of the JP McManus team and his life-changing fall at Cheltenham affected us all. When I go out there I just take the view that if I fall I'll get up again – until I'm in an ambulance on morphine. I'm not so tough then.

Then when horses get killed it can hit you hard. Losing Synchronised, Gloria Victis, Darlan and Valiramix left me numb for days.

The sportsmen I admire are Tiger Woods – one of my biggest thrills was to play golf with him – and others who have stayed at the top for a long time. In racing it is Lester Piggott and Vincent O'Brien, who were global icons. I'm not. Don't compare me to them. I'm just a normal mortal ploughing a few fields round the countryside. They were geniuses.

Last night we went to my pub, 'The Outside Chance' near Marlborough to celebrate. I'd invited all my colleagues and the valets to come. I don't drink, but I imagine the lads will have drunk it dry. We are all working today, though, so it would not have been late. I could eat because I haven't got do a light today and the great thing is, with only a ride in the last at Southwell, I can sleep until mid-morning.

I'm always relieved to win any race and it might not have been the biggest, richest or best race I've ever won, but it was fantastic the way it happened; riding a horse in the gold and green silks of JP McManus and trained by Jonjo O'Neill. Doing that means as much as the actual figure and, not that you can stage-manage these things, I was determined that that was the way it should happen.

Most days I leave for work in the morning like any other father or husband. I leave my family at home, but having them all here, my wife Chanelle, daughter Evie, son Archie Peadar, the 'real AP,' my father Peadar and brother, Colm, definitely made it one of the best days of my career.

Eveie is the person who cheers me up after a bad day at the races, because it doesn't make any difference to her day although she is now, aged six, more aware of what constitutes a good or bad day for her dad. At only a few months Archie can now assume the role of daddy's happy-maker. As long as I read him a story that's all that matters, not whether I've had a winner.

Evie had mixed emotions about it. She cancelled her sixth birthday party yesterday to come and didn't want to cancel it for no good reason, but part of her was wanting a few more days off school following me around. There are only so many days a little girl can take off school, though.

I was also very pleased my agent Dave Roberts could come and he was the first person to greet me on the course – as he was when I got to 3,000 at Plumpton. He booked me on every one of those 4,000 winners and has been a huge part of my career.

His father died on Wednesday, and he said coming to watch the race was what his father would have wanted and I think he must have been looking down on me today. I remember watching Adrian Maguire ride five winners in a day at Plumpton when I was starting out and I turned to Dave and said: 'I want that.'

I hope I haven't let him down.

I felt quite humble that so many people came to Towcester and I know none were relishing the prospect of coming to Southwell for one ride in the last with me today.

It was going to happen at some stage and I thought the race had got away from Mountain Tunes at the third last, but sometimes, 4,000 or not, you have to do what's right by the horse and I wanted him to finish his race well. It wasn't the best ride I've given a horse, but he ended up making me look good.

He was a bit green, there were a few more people here today than there were at the point-to-point he won in rural Ireland I don't doubt, and all this was a bit new to him but he's a young horse with a future.

I never for a moment felt any pressure or thought about the crowd or family watching. Until five strides before the winning post it was just a normal race at Towcester.

FANTASTIC

Really it's about the horses, all 4,000 of them, not me. You can't do it without the horses and they are big players in the sport and the lads who look after them rarely get a mention. They are fantastic animals and most people come to see them not us. I am very lucky to have spent my working life with them – they are what attracted me to the sport in the first place.

This is the one sport where there is no place for arrogance or complacency because you are up there one minute and dumped on your backside the next. I feel like I'm one of the lads in the weighing room and, I hope, they feel the same about me and don't treat me any different. It's a tough sport and longevity in it requires a lot of luck and you have to work hard.

Someone was saying I was also the most experienced jump jockey there has ever been, because I've had the most rides. But never a day go past in this sport when I don't learn something new and the person who reckons any different is wrong.

Essentially I am a dreamer. When I started I dreamed I'd be champion because it is a sport which is all about the people who win the most. I have a fear of not winning and have felt like that for the last 17 years. When I got to 3,000 I dreamed I'd get to 4,000. Suddenly 5,000 does not look quite so far away. You've got to have targets after all. (© Daily Telegraph, london)

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