How AP McCoy became the “Champ”
At the end of April earlier this year, Tony McCoy continued his imperious reign over the UK’s national hunt championship. This was his 18th straight title, one of the greatest runs in sport – if not the. You don’t get the nickname ‘Champ’ in the locker room for nothing.
The list of major wins in his trophy case is almost a complete collection of the national hunt majors. At the Mecca of British jump racing, Cheltenham, McCoy has two Gold Cups and three Champion Hurdles to his name while also collecting the King George in 2002 on Best Mate. The Scottish and Irish Grand Nationals were conquered by 2007 but the big one remained elusive for the greatest jump jockey of all time until 2010.
At that point some bookmakers and experts actually started to question whether the ‘Real McCoy’ would ever achieve his ultimate goal. In 2010 he replaced the injured Ruby Walsh to ride 20-1 shot Don’t Push It for the Grand National. The bookies caught wind of the potential history making ride just at the right moment halving the odds just 10 minutes before the race began. Nine minutes later, McCoy had powered away from the determined Black Apalachi and in front of 70,000 fans at Aintree screaming ‘Ole, Ole, Ole’. The Irishman had done it.
What followed for McCoy was one more piece of history as he beat names like Jess Ennis, Mark Cavendish and Lee Westwood to win the 2010 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award with 42% of the vote. It was the first time any jockey had won Britain’s most prestigious sporting award and made all the more special by Cesc Fabreagas – captain of his beloved Arsenal FC – presenting him with the trophy on the night.
This wonderful racer has become the one major crossover star in a sport where champion jockeys can have a successful career over two decades yet never appear on a single TV chatshow. Frankie Dettori is the only jockey to come close to McCoy in terms of star power but the two are completely different.
Dettori might be better over the flat but is nowhere close to McCoy’s success, winning only two flat racing titles in the Irishman’s 18 year reign. Off the track, McCoy has been a model professional with a down to Earth attitude, a teetotal lifestyle and a perfect diet and training regime. Dettori on the other hand has recently failed a drugs test for cocaine and has more than once indulged in the celebrity lifestyle that many dedicated sportsmen despise.
The only drug that McCoy is apparently addicted to is the thrill of victory. On the evidence from his girlfriend, ‘AP’ is terribly downcast after a fall or a sustained barren run. But when her man averages 180 wins over the course of a season in his classic green and gold stripes, she shouldn’t worry too much.
The records are still there for McCoy to aim for. He only needs 16 more wins to reach an incredible 4,000 career wins. In a sport where you are constantly bruised and battered from a rough weeks riding, that is incredible. McCoy himself has confessed to having broken every bone in his body to some degree over his career. To be able to continue riding to such a high standard is astonishing. He still is one year away from the ‘turning point’ age of 40 for jockeys and still has a great relationship with his employer, J.P McManus. Expect the ‘Champ’ to remain on top of the game for another year at least.