Despite the inestimable number of column inches rightly tapped out in praise of eighteen-time jump jockey on riding his 4,000th winner yesterday, I couldn't let the moment pass without a small tribute to AP McCoy from mugpunting. I'm old enough to remember when he was known simply as Tony McCoy. So we go back a way.
Alongside all the deserved plaudits about drive, determination, will to win, tenacity, mental strength, indestructible body, etc etc, we should not overlook the impact he has had on tactics and race riding. An elastic continuum of murky practices sadly continues to straddle racing. It has dodgy runs to protect handicap marks at one end and stretches mercilessly through to blatant doping and surgical maltreatment of horses at the other. Punters, I’ll wager, have never had any doubt, from day one of McCoy’s career, at any gaff track or aboard any outside rag, that he was ever doing anything other than riding to win. Time after time he has conjoured victory from certain defeat by dragging reluctant beasts up finishing straights by sheer force of will and muscle. When I started watching jumps racing, so often you’d see a horse make the early pace and fade to nothing. McCoy changed all that with bold front-running performance that took complacent, muddling-paced races by the scruff of the neck. He has given race riding a competitive kick up the arse and has changed it forever.
Peter O’Sullevan was erudite and precise in marking the occasion on the Today programme this morning. What a master of language he is compared to the generation of gaffmeisters and cliché peddlers that inherited his microphone. He said that McCoy rang him on his journey back from Towcester and, amongst other chat, offered his record breaking riding boots to O’Sullevan for the latter’s racing charity. There is the measure of the man.
Achieving his remarkable feat at my local track gives me a peculiar little thrill. I’m an advocate for the small tracks and Towcester is a favourite. Given that McCoy has hallmarked his career by turning up and riding just as hard at the byways and cul-de-sacs as at the major centres, it seems fitting that Towcester played host and not Cheltenham. They all come the same to McCoy.
And credit to the marketing gurus at the track. They had been trailing the potential climax to #AP4000 at this meeting for some while. The chips fell their way and what a massive boost for the course. Seven thousand ecstatic punters cheered McCoy and Mountain Tunes back to the paddock. JP McManus allegedly offered to buy them all a pint.
Fates conspired to prevent me attending. A regret. But I’ll pencil in a date sometime in 2018 when, conservatively, he should be approaching 5,000. Mrs McCoy thinks it is not possible, I gather. But does she know him as well as we the punters?