Cheltenham Festival Bids Farewell To Legend Tony McCoy


   by  Paolo Camera 

Despite galloping to his 31st win at the Cheltenham Festival, Irish jockey Tony McCoy competed in his last race at the historic National Hunt event last Friday, riding Carlingford Lough in jump racing’s showpiece Gold Cup.

However, regardless of his confirmed retirement at the end of the season, McCoy showed his skills are still world class, winning the Ryanair Chase event on day three of the Festival. Despite being an outsider, from the perspective of the bookies, with odds of only 16/1, McCoy and horse Uxizandre led the way for the entire duration of the race.

Of course, what more could be expected from one of the most talented and successful jockeys of all-time. McCoy, who was awarded an MBE in 2014, recorded his first win at the age of 17 in 1992. Since then, the now-40-year-old jockey has ridden more than 4,000 victories, which contributed to him racking up an astounding 19 consecutive Champion Jockey titles and outstripping second-place holder Peter Scudamore by a staggering 12 trophies.

When looking at McCoy’s extensive C.V, it is difficult to find a single gap. The Moneyglass-born Northern Irishman won the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and King George VI Chase amongst numerous other events. However, the highlight of this glittering career, as it would be for any world-class British jockey, was McCoy’s victory at the 2010 Grand National when riding Don’t Push It. His win at the event assured that McCoy did not match Jeff King’s record of most Grand National rides without winning.

Considering the breadth, depth and length of McCoy’s career, it is unsurprising that he holds several Guinness Book of World Records titles. These records are ‘Most Jump Wins In A Single Season’ (289 Jumps, 2002), ‘Most Champion Jump Jockey Titles’ and ‘Most Career Jump Winners. Moreover, these are figures that McCoy, even in the twilight of his career, is still adding to!

McCoy – who became the first jockey to win the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2010 – has spent the last decade in an exclusive professional relationship with millionaire racehorse owner J.P McManus. Although McCoy’s decision, in 2004, to leave behind former collaborator Martin Pipe – who he had several successes with during their seven-year partnership – was criticised, the star jockey went on to win a further ten major titles during his time with McManus.

The only significant setback of McCoy’s career occurred relatively near its end. At the end of the 2012/2013 season, McCoy was thrown-off Nicky Henderson-trained Quantitativeeasing, breaking several ribs in the resulting fall, at the end-of-season event at Cheltenham. Consequently, McCoy missed the start of the 2013/2014 national hunt season. However, this delayed beginning did not seem to greatly hinder McCoy as he went on to easily surpass the 100-winner mark for that season. Doing so through his impressive five-timer at Carlisle racecourse, swiftly followed by the logging of five winners at Aintree – over only a two-day period – in October.

Indeed, McCoy’s lone significant career injury appeared to have no long-term ramifications. In July 2014, McCoy reached both a significant and personal milestone by passing friend and mentor Martin Pipe’s record of 4,191 winners. This was achieved by McCoy winning the Summer Plate on the appropriately named ‘It’s A Gimme’.

It was perhaps this long-awaited passing of his idol, and mentor, that partially caused McCoy to decide to retire. However, it isn’t over quite yet for the talented jockey. McCoy will be competing in the Grand National this year, in a record-breaking twentieth appearance, and will be riding the pedigree stead, and ingeniously named, Shutthefrontdoor. So, even if McCoy’s legacy will end in 2015, it would not be a long-shot punt to say, he’s planning to go out in a blaze of glory at Aintree.

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