Racing Comment: Broken bones, chipped teeth: AP’s given all

Bill Esdaile
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THOUSANDS will travel to Sandown Park tomorrow to see the curtain come down on the career of Anthony Peter McCoy, an extraordinary jockey and truly remarkable sportsman.

AP, as he’s become known, will be crowned Champion Jump Jockey for a record-breaking 20th consecutive year. While his fans and the media wax lyrical about his glittering achievements during that time you can bet your boots his sole focus will be on riding winner No4,349.

That’s because no jockey has ever had such hunger to succeed. No jockey is ever likely have it again either.

What AP has achieved in the saddle won’t be repeated in my lifetime, or any of our lifetimes for that matter.

What most people don’t realise is the sheer scale of the brutal, physical sacrifice he has endured over the decades to stay at the top of his game.

Winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2010 gave the wider sporting community a fleeting glimpse of that sacrifice.

As will be well--documented over the next few days, there have been plenty of ups including a Grand National, two Gold Cups and three Champion Hurdles.

Yet he’s also had more than his fair share of downs too.

No jockey has taken more falls, with the tally now well into four figures. And his quest to be the best has seen him break 13 bones, chip 14 teeth and ride through the pain barrier on an almost daily basis.

Spending at least two hours a day in the sauna, six days a week, to maintain a riding weight at least a stone below his natural weight takes a form of dedication somewhere close to madness.

Breakfast has often been just a cup of tea with two sugars, while dinner has been a contest he’s only participated in four times a week for the last 20-odd years.

Plenty of jockeys have ridden with more style and more panache. There have been better horsemen too.

But none have ridden with more strength or a greater determination to win whatever the cost.

His victory aboard Wichita Lineman at the Cheltenham Festival in 2009 exemplifies that approach for me.

It showcased a routine relentlessness to win on a horse that clearly hadn’t read the same script, this time on the biggest of stages.

No other jockey would have won on that horse, that day.

There will be tears tomorrow, and maybe even a few for the first and last time from the great man himself. It’ll be strange not to see him ride again.

But let’s celebrate a remarkable career and hand him back to his wife Chanelle and their two children, Eve and Archie, in one piece. We owe him – and them – that, at the very least.

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