McCoy powers way to epic 3,000

He could have chosen no better milieu. Certainly it was far more fitting for Tony McCoy to ride his 3,000th winner here, on a filthy Monday afternoon, than in spring sunshine at the Cheltenham Festival, or even with that first Grand National success – one of the few remaining goals still goading one of the toughest achievers in all sport. Instead McCoy offered the waiting world a sample of his calling that perfectly measured not just its daily imponderables, but also the sort of man who could master them so implacably.

All afternoon the clouds rolled sorrowfully off the downs, and the wind flung icy rain into the riders' faces. The ground was so heavy that it might as well have been strewn with barbed wire, and pitted with foxholes. The horses, on the whole, were Monday horses, Plumpton horses. As befits a man approaching his 14th consecutive championship, admittedly, McCoy's four mounts were not as mediocre as most. But even that could not necessarily preserve him from the travails that menace every jump jockey, every day.

The first one could barely drag his feet out of the ground. The second, a hurdler named Hello Moscow, looked beaten with a circuit to go. His backers were perfectly entitled to discard their betting tickets, but over the years McCoy has taught them not fidelity, but blind faith. He seized hold of the reins and suffused the mute animal with his own drive, his own will; all out on the run-in, they held out grimly, still a neck clear at the line.

That took him to 2,999, and the pity was that he could hardly contrive a more characteristic performance to reach the landmark. As it was, however, the next race would provide a still more eloquent insight into the hazards that treat all jockeys with equal indifference. For Miss Sarenne looked certain to take him to the milestone more or less as a passenger, so smoothly was she going into the final hurdle. But she slithered to the ground on landing, and while both the mare and her rider were soon on their feet, the moral of the episode was lost on none who witnessed it. It must be unprecedented for a bedraggled crowd of punters to cheer a jockey who has just hit the deck on a hot favourite with the race in the bag.

Nicky Henderson, the mare's trainer, accompanied their muddy hero back to the jockeys' room, shaking his head. "Poor guy," he said. "He doesn't get down to 10st 4lb very often, and has been wasting hard – on a day as cold as this, too. It's just the epitome of the man. And then something like that has to happen."

A few minutes later McCoy emerged, no more or less cadaverous than usual, and handed Henderson his saddle for their last chance in the plunging dusk: Restless d'Artaix, a novice chaser with just four rivals to beat. And this time the capricious gods who govern his sport took pity on McCoy, whose progress towards the landmark had in recent days become as glacial as the weather that repeatedly interfered with his plans.

Instead they allowed him to reiterate another part of his repertoire – one often overshadowed by the ardent flourishes so cherished by punters in a close finish, but no less fundamental. For it was an unerring "eye for a stride" that first set him apart, as an adolescent prodigy from Ulster, and Restless d'Artaix jumped impeccably throughout. After a brief tussle on the run-in, they got home by a length, and it was time for the handshakes, hugs and autographs. Only a couple of hundred souls braved the vile conditions round the winner's enclosure, but their welcome was warm as any sunshine.

And rightly so, for in their midst was an authentic colossus, who will bestride the Turf's annals for generations to come. His vocation permits even a man like McCoy no airs, however, and as he stood in the rain he decorously spread the credit elsewhere: to his agent, Dave Roberts, to his parents, his patrons.

But he was not fooling anyone. The beauty is that McCoy, unlike many others who break new ground in sport, himself values sheer weight of numbers as a valid gauge of his endeavours. "I do feel very privileged," he admitted eventually. "I hope my mum and dad will be very proud, and that Eve [his 18-month-old daughter] will grow up and some day knowing that I must have been an OK jockey. Without wanting to sound arrogant, it's a lot of hard work, a lot of falls. I didn't wake up this morning at 10st 4lb, that's for sure."

At 34, he intends to stay around only for so long as he retains his monopoly on the title. That is the conundrum of McCoy, that he should dovetail his essential humility with such a demonic obsession for being best. Nobody else has even ridden 2,000 winners.

When asked what drove him on, he promptly replied: "The fear of someone else riding more winners than me." He was in deadly earnest, but the general laughter prompted him to offer something else. "It's very easy to be driven when you love what you're doing. I'm very lucky in that I absolutely love what I do. I'm sure someone will come along in years to come and ride more winners than me. There's nothing that's impossible. People ask can I ride 4,000? Who knows? Never say never. All I will do is look for the 3,001st winner, and carry on and ride as many as possible. If I keep going to 44, I could ride 5,000 winners. That's a joke, by the way."

This time, however, nobody was laughing.

Tony McCoy: His historic day

Ride 1. Excape (5-2 third favourite in two-mile novice hurdle) Faded badly to finish a poor seventh. McCoy's winning total still 2,998.

Ride 2. Hello Moscow (4-1 second favourite in 2m5f handicap hurdle) Mount clearly hated the mud but was given the full McCoy treatment and was hard driven to hold on by a neck. The champion had reached 2,999.

Ride 3. Miss Sarenne (a hot 10-11 favourite in a mares' hurdle) Six lengths clear at the last, cheers rising from the stands... then suddenly a crashing fall. McCoy and mount hit the ground. Exasperation.

Ride 4.Restless d'Artaix (13-8 favourite in a beginners' chase) Covered in mud but the partnershiptriumph by a length. Finally it's 3,000.

Arts and Entertainment
arts + entsWith one of the best comic roles around, it's no wonder she rarely bothers with films
News
people
News
i100
News
Davis says: 'My career has been about filling a niche - there were fewer short actors and fewer roles – but now I'm being offered all kinds of things'
PeopleWarwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia
Save the tigerWildlife charities turn to those who kill animals to help save them
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
News
i100
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Life and Style
A small bag of the drug Ecstasy
Health
News
i100
Life and Style
Floral-print swim shorts, £26, by Topman, topman.com; sunglasses, £215, by Paul Smith, mpaulsmith.co.uk
FashionBag yourself the perfect pair
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup