Sir Anthony Peter McCoy, knighted in 2016 for services to horse racing, but known to the racing public as ‘Tony’ or ‘A.P.’ was, by any objective measure, not only the greatest National Hunt jockey of his generation, but the greatest National Hunt jockey of all time.
Born and bred in Co. Antrim, McCoy rode his first winner in Britain on Chickabiddy, trained by Gordon Edwards, in a handicap hurdle at Exeter on September 7, 1994, and at the end of the 1994/95 season became Champion Conditional Jockey. Thereafter, McCoy rode more winners than any other National Hunt jockey in Britain in each of the next 20 seasons or, in other words, in every season until his retirement in April, 2015. Famously tall for a jockey, at 5’10”, testament to his dedication to his profession is the fact that, on the day he retired, at the age of 40, he still weighed only 10st 2lb and had the body fat percentage of a typical elite athlete.
Surprisingly, McCoy never won the Stayers’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival, but won the Champion Hurdle three times, on Make A Stand in 1997, Brave Inca in 2006 and Binocular in 2010, the Queen Mother Champion Chase on Edredon Bleu in 2000 and the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, on Mr. Mulligan in 1997 and Sychronised in 2012. Away from the Festival, he famously won the Grand National, at the fifteenth attempt, on Don’t Push It in 2010.
McCoy enjoyed a fruitful association with Martin Pipe, winning the jockeys’ title in nine consecutive season while stable jockey at Pond House, before his decision to leave in 2004. In 2001/02, McCoy rode 289 winners – including 189 for Pipe – and broke the all-time record (269) for the most winners in a season, previously held by Sir Gordon Richards. In August, 2002, he became the most successful National Hunt jockey, numerically, in history, with 1,700 winners, one more than his predecessor at Pond House, Richard Dunwoody, in half the time and two-thirds of the number of rides.
McCoy left Pond House for what he described as the ‘new challenge’ of riding for Jonjo O’Neill at Jackdaws Castle, but accepted a huge retainer – rumoured to be anything up to £1 million a year – from John Patrick ‘J.P.’ McManus, owner of the state-of-the-art training facility, to ride in his familiar green and gold hooped silks. McCoy kept the retainer for the rest of his career and retired with 4,348 winners – 4,204 of them in Britain – and his financial future secure.