With 4,000 Tony McCoy winners in the bag, we look at 10 moments and talking points – in no particular order – which capture the essence of a sporting phenomenon.
QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE, 2000 – One of the most memorable finishes of all time with three in line coming over the final fence. As Flagship Uberalles dropped away into third, Direct Route and the McCoy-ridden Edredon Bleu were left to battle it out up the run-in.
Just as Direct Route appeared to be getting the better of the argument, McCoy galvanised Henrietta Knight’s charge to join him on the line. After what seemed like an eternity, the judge announced number three as the winner. While the crowd roared, McCoy had a brief look at his saddle cloth before standing up in the stirrups and waving his whip in realisation that he was the victor.
BLOWING WIND – Blowing Wind is a horse with whom McCoy will be associated for a number of reasons but few could forget his Imperial Cup/County Hurdle double in 1998. Every man and his dog seemed to have wagered on the horse completing the double at the Festival, and McCoy sent the 15-8 favourite to the front after jumping the final flight before careering away to score.
Blowing Wind also guided McCoy to two third-placed finishes in the Grand National at Aintree, the first of which will always be remembered after the horse refused at the 19th and catapulted McCoy into the fence. Undeterred, however, McCoy got back on board and guided his mount to pick up some �55,000 in prize-money after having his own private battle with Papillon and Ruby Walsh, who had also been remounted.
SOUTHWELL, 2002 – McCoy’s remarkable will to win can be summed up in a bizarre race for the Feast of St Raymond Novices’ Chase at Southwell on January 23, 2002. All seemed lost when his mount, the well-backed 8-11 favourite Family Business, fell at the 10th fence. The champ even hurled his skull cap in disgust.
But one by one the remaining six runners were suffering similar grief. On hearing the commentator relay the drama, McCoy was reunited with Family Business, who had been caught after covering a couple of furlongs. He trotted the gelding back to the fence where they had parted company, jumped that and then completed a full circuit of the course without mishap to claim the prize.
CHAMPION HURDLE, 2006 – If ever a horse was made for McCoy it was the tough-as-teak Brave Inca and the pair were seen at their brilliant best in the 2006 Champion Hurdle.
McCoy took over the ride on Colm Murphy’s stable star in April that year and the duo seemed to hit it off immediately as McCoy guided his mount to a typically hard-fought win in the Emo Oil Champion Hurdle at Punchestown. The combination went on to win another five times together and without doubt that Festival victory is the day that is best remembered.
BEST MATE – McCoy only rode the great Best Mate twice and it is a mixture of the two that makes this a great story. Jim Culloty was the jockey synonymous with the triple Gold Cup winner but after he suffered an injury in the winter of 2001, McCoy stepped in for the plum ride in the King George VI Chase on Boxing Day.
Having travelled well on what was his first try at three miles, McCoy brought Matey with his challenge at the final fence but he failed to peg back the equally-popular Florida Pearl.
It is a measure of the man that McCoy blamed himself for that defeat and it was somewhat fitting that McCoy was in the plate again in the corresponding race 12 months later as Culloty was banned. McCoy never makes a mistake more than once and this time he drove Best Mate out to take the Grade One prize by a length and a half from Marlborough.
GRAND NATIONAL – There were those who said it would never happen. McCoy had tried 14 times to win the most famous race in the world yet the racing gods appeared to be conspiring against him. Clan Royal was travelling like a winner in 2005 when a loose horse took him out and while he had been placed several times, it seemed McCoy himself had resigned himself to the fact it was just not meant to be.
But then along came Don’t Push It in 2010. Owned by his boss, JP McManus, and trained by Jonjo O’Neill, Don’t Push It was sent off the 10-1 joint-favourite and stormed clear on the famous run-in to win by five lengths. The relief etched on his face was there for all to see, it appeared as if a lead weight had been lifted from his shoulders and it enabled McCoy to win the coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.
KRIOTHERAPY TREATMENT, 2008 – When McCoy took a bone-crunching fall from Arnold Layne in the Classic Chase at Warwick on January 12, 2008 his Cheltenham Festival hopes appeared to have evaporated as he was stretchered into an ambulance. He fractured vertebrae in his back and for many the sensible thing to do with that sort of injury would be to give it all the time it needs.
His recovery powers were already legendary but then he was introduced to the ‘ice chamber’ treatment of Kriotherapy which involves subjecting the body to incredibly cold temperatures for short spells of time. Of course, McCoy being McCoy, he had to set a record at that and lasted three minutes at minus 149C. Suffice to say the treatment worked and McCoy rode at the Festival and won the RSA Chase on Albertas Run.
CHAMPION HURDLE, 1997 – Cheltenham Festival winners have been harder to come by in recent years for McCoy but in 1997 he won the Gold Cup on Mr Mulligan and Champion Hurdle on Make A Stand. The latter was claimed by Martin Pipe off the Flat for just over 4,000gns and has to be one of the bargain buys of all time.
His winning spree started in December 1996 when he landed a handicap at Sandown off a mark of 126. Four races later he wrote his name into Cheltenham folklore with a stunning display beating Theatreworld by five lengths. Lightning fast over his hurdles, he and McCoy were a match made in heaven and they broke the track record.
GOLD CUP, 1997 and 2012 – McCoy was already dominating by this time and his first Cheltenham Gold Cup came on Mr Mulligan in 1997. Playing catch me if you can, McCoy had the measure of the opposition some way out and apart from wandering around in the closing stages, Mr Mulligan answered his rider’s every call to win by nine lengths from Barton Bank.
Remarkably, McCoy then had to wait another 15 years before taking the blue riband again, this time on Synchronised. What made that success particularly special was that Synchronised’s dam, Mayasta, was the first horse McCoy ever won on for his boss, JP McManus.
PRIDWELL – Few horses got the measure of the mighty Istabraq, but Pridwell had his day thanks to an inspired piece of riding by McCoy. The 1998 Martell Hurdle looked like going to form when Istabraq headed Martin Pipe’s runner at the last, but McCoy managed to conjure the best out of his moody mount without bullying him to wear down Istabraq and land the spoils by a head.
The man himself said at the time: “I gave the best ride I’ve ever given, and ever will give.”Read the rest of the story British Horseracing Authority News Headlines