Tony McCoy today announced he is to retire from racing at the end of the season.
AP McCoy, the 19-times champion jump jockey, announced yesterday that he will retire from the saddle at the end of the season. Minutes after Mr Mole had given McCoy his 200th winner of the current campaign as Sire De Grugy, the odds-on favourite, unseated his rider three out in an incident-packed Betfair Price Rush Chase at Newbury, the 40-year-old Irishman told Channel 4 Racing: “It’s going to be the last time I ride 200 winners.
“Having spoken to Dave [Roberts, his agent] and JP McManus [the leading owner who retains him], I am going to be retiring at the end of the season.”
He added: “I want to go out at the top, I want to go out as champion jockey, and it will be my 20th year if I can win the jockeys’ championship. This is without a doubt the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I’ve been dreading this day. I still can’t quite imagine a life without racing. However, I know it’s the right time to end a career I’ve loved.”
His wife, Chanelle, said: “It’s a decision he’s battled with very much, some days he’s at peace with it and some days he’s sad. It will be great for him to go out on a high and hopefully we will get him out in one piece.”
It had been widely expected that McCoy would retire sooner rather than later, but the timing of his announcement still came as a surprise. Since riding his first winner in England at Exeter in September 1994 he has set records that are incredibly unlikely to be surpassed – apart from his 19 champion jockey titles he has ridden 4,322 winners to date, 289 of them in the 2001-02 season, and last August he broke his own record for the fastest century of winners in a season, notching up his 100th after 116 days.
In 2010 he became the first jockey to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award, buoyed by public sentiment after he had captured his first Grand National at his 15th attempt aboard Don’t Push It. He has also won the Welsh, Irish, Scottish and Midlands Grand Nationals, and practically every other notable National Hunt race. At the Cheltenham Festival his record stands at 30 victories, including two Gold Cups and three Champion Hurdles. Other honours include an MBE in 2003 and an OBE seven years later, awarded for services to horse racing.
Born in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, his first winner was on the Flat at Thurles, aged 17, but he later broke his leg. By the time it had mended he had grown both taller and heavier, dictating a switch to the jumps. At over 5ft 10in he is tall for a jockey, and while he can ride at 10st 3lb he considers his natural rate to be around 12st.
He has suffered many injuries in his relentless pursuit of success – over the years he has broken middle and lower vertebrae, both shoulder blades, both collarbones, ribs, ankle, cheekbones, wrist and leg, plus suffering a dislocated thumb and chipped teeth.
Leading lights of National Hunt racing queued up to pay tribute to McCoy yesterday. The champion trainer, Paul Nicholls, said: “He’s been such a legend, but you can’t go on for ever. He’s riding as well as he ever has, so that’s probably the right time to go out. He’s been a great ambassador. Everyone will miss him, won’t they?”
Former champion trainer Martin Pipe, who employed McCoy for seven years from 1997, said: “He’s been an absolute legend for horse racing and will never be surpassed again in anybody’s lifetime. He’s so thorough and so competitive. It really was a great time we had together.”
Richard Johnson, who has played second fiddle to McCoy in the championship for years, commented: “There will be a few more chances for everyone else, but it will be a great sadness to lose him from the weighing room. Even though we all know we’re getting to that point at some point, it’s still a shock. Look, he’s been amazing, and his memories will last for a long, long time.”
The Real McCoy - career in numbers
4,322 wins Current tally
4,000 wins 7 Nov 2013 Mountain Tunes, Towcester
3,000 wins 9 Feb 2009 Restless D’Artaix, Plumpton, 2,000 wins 17 Jan 2004 Magical Bailiwick, Wincanton 1,000 wins 11 Dec 1999 Majadou, Cheltenham
First win 26 March 1992 Legal Steps, Thurles
£50 million Sum bookmakers lost when McCoy won last year’s Grand National
1.3 years Amount of time McCoy has spent in sauna sweating off the pounds