AP McCoy: ‘Made of concrete’

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British jump jockey AP McCoy calls time on his illustrious career

Arguably the greatest jockey of all time, dominating his sport like no other

Over 1,000 career falls, though, have taken their toll on his ailing body

CNN  — 

His broken bones include both wrists, collarbones, shoulder blades, cheekbones and every single one of his ribs, as well as a leg, arm and ankle not to mention the punctured lungs.

Most of his teeth are replacements having been knocked out in the line of duty.

Has there ever been a sports person as dominant as jockey AP McCoy?

His achievements dwarf those of seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher. His success arguably surpasses that of Tiger Woods in his major-winning pomp.

Woods is one of McCoy’s idols – the pair are pictured together in his Twitter avatar – and they played together in a Pro-Am in 2010.

In the aftermath, it was Woods that was left waxing lyrical about his playing partner, astounded that McCoy was still standing after his litany of injuries.

But one of the greatest sporting legacies of all-time will draw to a close at the end of April, when McCoy officially retires.

The 40-year-old, who announced his shock decision at Newbury Racecourse last weekend, looks set to climb out of the saddle with a 20th consecutive British Jump Jockeys Championship.

One more triumph will mean he has taken the crown every year since he first turned professional.

His dominance is hardly surprising when you consider his is now well past 4,300 career victories.

Has anyone greater ever sat in the saddle? British jockey Sir Gordon Richards managed 4,870 winners but those were in the world of flat racing where falls are notoriously fewer and farther between.

The Northern Irishman estimates he has fallen over 1,000 times and he is well known in the Emergency Department of a host of hospitals in Great Britain and Ireland.

For all those knocks, he has ridden on regardless until announcing his decision live on British television: “I want to go while I’m still enjoying racing and while I am still near the top. This is without doubt the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I’ve been dreading this day.

“To become a jockey was the best decision I’ve ever made and I will really miss it. This is something I’ve been very luck to have as a great way of life for the last 25 years. But time waits for no man in sport and it’s not going to wait for me.”

His rivals will no doubt breathe a collective sigh of relief at his impending retirement.

Former jockey-turned-trainer Jamie Osborne tweeted his former rival after the news: “Hated riding with u. Tried to dislike u but couldn’t. Too dedicated. Too strong. Too talented.”

Fellow jump jockey Ruby Walsh joked that McCoy is “made of concrete” such was the manner in which he was able to bounce back from falls that would have written off lesser mortals to ride his next winner moments later. And trainer Martin Pipe labeled him “the iron man.”

It may be a career history awash with big wins from the notorious Grand National, the world’s most famous jump jockey race, in 2010, to two victories in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the main event of the annual Cheltenham Festival, often referred to as the Olympics of the horse-racing world.

But the injuries aside, it has come with other difficulties. At 1.78 meters, McCoy is tall for a jockey and in order to keep his weight down, has spent the past two decades and more competing at 65kg when his natural weight is closer to 76kg.

As a result, he treats himself to just two steaks a year as part of a meager diet along with routine saunas and scolding hot baths.

A teetotaler, he claims to have touched neither drink nor drugs in his life, instead adamant that racing is his drug.

Amid all that, he has shone in the sport with a career win record of 24% – most top jockeys struggle to get in the high teens – and in the region of 30% this season to date. It is no wonder his fellow riders simply call him “Champ.”

News of his impending retirement came after riding his 200th winner of the season – Mr Mole at Newbury – for the ninth time in his career.

In typically understated fanfare, there was no press conference, he had not even told his parents.

The only ones that knew were the bookmaker JP McManus, who has McCoy riding his horses on a retainer of $1.5 million a year, his agent Dave Roberts and his wife Chanelle.

And he had only told her just five days before his public announcement.

It is 23 years since he rode his first winner as a 17-year-old in Ireland before competing for the first time in England in 1994.

There is just one regret, that he never rode 300 winners in a season – his best being 289 in the 2000-01 season, in itself a record.

That triple century had initially looked on the cards last season only for injury to peg him back: “I thought I could ride 300 winners and the fact it was taken away from me broke my heart.”

On the impending retirement, he added: “It is emotional because I am retiring from something I really like doing. That is why it is tough but it’s the right thing.”

So what lies in store in the future? For now, he says he has no idea but much like former jockey Dick Francis did, he has also put pen to paper on a first novel.

“Taking the Fall,” came out last year with jockey Duncan Claymore in the starring role. A second, “Narrowing the Field,” is due for publication in October so expect more works of fiction.

So remarkable have McCoy’s achievements been and so massively have they surpassed those of any of his predecessors or peers, one would have previously thought them a work of fiction.