AP McCoy: A life in horse racing

AP McCoy in action
AP McCoy in action (Photo: commons.wikmedia)

There are few more recognisable faces in horse racing than AP McCoy. Now retired, the jockey was an iconic figure in the sport for many years, winning countless races as he became one of horse racing’s most recognisable personalities. He is one of the sport’s most decorated winners, with a whole host of titles to his name.

McCoy can still be found at the races in his TV punditry role, keeping an eye on the favourites in horse racing betting odds and providing his expert opinions for the viewers at home. Let’s take a look back at McCoy’s incredible career as a jockey.

Early days

Born in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, McCoy was 17 when he rode his first winner, claiming victory in a flat race at Ireland’s Thurles Racecourse. It was obvious that McCoy was a talented jockey, and he enjoyed success in his home country before moving to England to focus on his jumps career.

In only his second season in England, McCoy was named Champion Jockey, an accolade given to the jockey who has ridden the most winners in the season. It was an incredible achievement for McCoy, who was only 21 years old at the time.

Winning machine

After that first Champion Jockey title, the wins kept on coming for McCoy. He became a winning machine – his class unparalleled throughout the sport. McCoy won the Champion Jockey title for a remarkable 20 consecutive seasons, a run bookended by wins in the 1995-96 and 2014-15 seasons. It is the record for most successive Champion Jockey titles, and he also holds the record for most wins in a single season with an impressive 289 in the 2001-02 campaign.

Such a run of consistent success is unrivalled. For sheer results, McCoy is right up there with the greats of other individual sports – the likes of Roger Federer in tennis, Tiger Woods in golf, or Stephen Hendry in snooker.

Grand National triumph

McCoy won the Grand National, one of the biggest and most prestigious events on the horse racing calendar, in 2010. Riding Don’t Push It, he ticked off another achievement on his racing bucket list, and joined the names of all the great winners of the past.

It was McCoy’s first win in the race at the 15th attempt, but it cemented his place among the greatest jockeys of all-time. It had been the one achievement missing off his horse racing CV and winning the race brought major relief for the Northern Irishman.

“Everyone on the street knows about the Grand National,” he said after winning at Aintree. “It’s the people’s race and, from a jockey’s perspective, that’s why it’s important. At least I can think that I’ve sort of done all right as a jockey now.”

Individual accolades

His success on the racetrack has brought recognition in the wider sporting world. In 2010, following his victory at the Grand National, he was named the BBC ‘Sports Personality of the Year’. He became the first jockey to win the award, proof of the massive impact he’s had on horse racing and the sport as a whole. In 2015, he received the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award. In his homeland, he was named RTE ‘Sports Person of the Year’ in 2013.

McCoy has since been given a knighthood, receiving the honour in 2016 after he retired from horse racing and becoming only the second jockey to be knighted. For horse racing fans all over the world, McCoy’s name is one synonymous with success and achievements. His was a career well spent doing what he loves, and doing it better than anyone else.

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