Friday 19 January 2018

AP McCoy: I really don't want to retire, but if I win the Grand National it's over

Tony McCoy
Tony McCoy

A racing fairytale is on the cards if Tony McCoy and Shutthefrontdoor can win the Crabbie's Grand National at Aintree.

The soon-to-be 20-times champion jockey announced in February this was to be his final season in the saddle and has since said he would call it quits on the spot if he won the National.

For a man who has made a career out of breaking records, it is not beyond the realms of possibility the Jonjo O'Neill-trained eight-year-old will complete his part of the job.

Having won the Irish Grand National last season, Shutthefrontdoor is a strong form contender in his own right and has been the ante-post favourite for months on a tide of McCoy sentiment.

With McCoy now entering the final throes of an unbelievable career, he has finally allowed himself some time for reflection.

"Sometimes I feel sad about it. There's days when I wish it wasn't coming to an end, but the reality of it is it is coming to an end," he said.

"I know deep down it's the right thing. It's very deep down I have to go, but it is the right thing.

"Pretty much all my life, since I was a child, I've been able to do what I've loved doing.

"It's going to be very different not being able to do it any more. I've been very lucky to ride for very successful people. I think that definitely helps you along the way.

"It's going to be very difficult when my valet, Chris Maude, and all the lads bring my gear round to the horse and say, 'Here you go, you're finished'. That's when the reality is going to hit home, that I'm not going racing any more.

"I'm just trying to keep things as normal as possible and do my job. I can leave the worrying until after I walk out of here on Saturday night.

"I have mixed emotions because I would love to win the National, but I don't want it to be my final ride. I really don't want to retire, but if I win the race I'll do retirement after that.

"I've been very lucky to have ridden more winners than anyone else, but I've also ridden a lot more losers.

"You never stop weighing up whether it has gone wrong or right."

With his professional head on, McCoy feels he has a serious chance of going out on an unbelievable high with a second National win, especially as he is trained by O'Neill, who is so good with staying chasers.

"Jonjo has prepared him for the race and is very happy with him," said McCoy.

"He'd have liked to have got a run into him, but he had a few little problems with him in Christmas and January so he didn't get the chance to run him.

"He's happy with the way he's going and he's brilliant at preparing horses for those big staying chases.

"The Grand National is the most famous race in the world and we were lucky enough to win it with Don't Push It, but, on the whole, Jonjo as a trainer has a very good record with horses that have run in it and it would be nice for that record to get even better.

"Jonjo is a great man and a great trainer and I've been very lucky to ride for him for 10 years. I've enjoyed every moment of it.

"He probably gave me the two greatest days of my life in racing in winning the Gold Cup with Synchronised and the National with Don't Push It.

"I'll be forever grateful to him and he was the one who made me ride Don't Push It."

O'Neill has not had a straightforward season, finding winners hard to come by in December and January, but he has emerged from the quiet spell and feels it could be a blessing Shutthefrontfdoor did not run on soft ground in the winter.

"It took a while to find where the problem was, but once we did it was easy to treat," said the Jackdaws Castle handler.

"He had a bit of a runny nose and the horses weren't flying at the time, so we put it down to a lot of things.

"He wouldn't have run much before Cheltenham as the ground was terrible, so we were not that worried. I am very happy with the way he is going.

"He is going there a fresh horse and that's why I've taken him away a couple of times, just to knock the freshness out of him.

"You don't want him too fresh over the first couple as he will let fly and over-jump, and that's what we don't want.

"The only thing you would say is he lacks a little experience, but I think he is quite clever and pretty accurate.

"Hopefully going to Becher's the first time, having gone over the first three or four, if he has taken to it he will run a blinder.

"The only pressure (on me) is that Shutthefrontdoor gets there safe and sound.

"He's in the best form I can possibly get him. I would be more nervous if we had hiccups now but we had them in January and February. If he doesn't win, we can blame whoever rides him!

"I used to build three or four National fences every year but one year we didn't and that was the year Don't Push It won so we haven't since.

"We are going there full of confidence, but you have got to be realistic - it is the National."

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