On Thursday 7th November 2013, sporting and racing history was made, and a mark put down that is unlikely to ever be matched by another jockey again. AP McCoy – the Champ – won for the 4,000th time in his career. To put that into some perspective, AP became the most successful jumps jockey of all time back in 2002 when he rode his 1,700th winner, surpassing Richard Dunwoody’s record. He also has the most winners in a single season, 289, a full 20 more than the previous best.
Richard Johnson, who has been unfortunate enough to have been at his peak during the McCoy years, has just over 2,500 winners and has never won the jump jockeys’ title. That is because McCoy has won the last 18 titles, and is almost assured of a 19th this season. Those titles do not represent, like some other sports, 18 moments of brilliance during a career; they represent 18 years of incredible dedication, excellence, strict dieting and fitness regime and also excruciating pain beyond the imagination of most mortals. Consider McCoy’s injury record:
- 14 chipped teeth and 5 lost teeth;
- Broken both shoulder blades;
- Broken collar bones;
- Broken cheekbone;
- Broken eye socket;
- Broken ribs;
- Broken back (T12 vertebrae fracture, T9 and T10 vertebrae shattered);
- Broken wrist;
- Broken hand;
- Broken leg;
- Broken ankle.
After the broken vertebrae, McCoy underwent intense rehabilitation in an attempt to ride at the Cheltenham Festival just 8 weeks later, including Kryotherapy at temperatures of -135C. Despite most people thinking it would be impossible, sure enough McCoy was fit to ride at Cheltenham.
As well as winning all of jump racing’s biggest races – the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase, King George VI Chase, the Grand National – it is the thousands of less glamorous winners that have cemented McCoy’s place among the pantheon of sporting greats. Combined with McCoy’s tireless work off the course, in particular for the Injured Jockeys’ Fund, then in my opinion you would be hard pressed to find a greater sportsman or woman anywhere, ever. Let’s hope AP can find the time to enjoy a nice meal for a change.