Aintree win gives McCoy the great rider’s complete set

IN AN age in which superlatives are bandied around with fanciful abandon, thank goodness for Tony McCoy.

The 14-time champion jockey is one of only a few sporting icons whose legendary status is utterly justified.

All jockeys have an unquenchable thirst to succeed, but none possess the resilience of the often misunderstood McCoy. Those who have in the past accused him of being moody or obtuse miss the point. McCoy’s stone-faced intensity is often mistaken for crabbiness and is undoubtedly one of his most important trademarks.

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As is his bravery – as was succinctly evidenced a couple of years ago.

Jonjo O’Neill and JP McManus would surely have had to look elsewhere for a partner to Butler’s Cabin in the 2008 National, had McCoy been a weaker soul. The jockey fractured two vertebrae in a fall in January that year and had to undergo several shivering rounds of Kriotherapy treatment to somehow enter calculations for the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree.

Dead-eyed judgment has also been a key attribute to his success story. And while McCoy accepted it was a close call between choosing either Don’t Push It or stablemate Can’t Buy Time, vindication was swift and gloriously satisfying.

McCoy’s class is not always exhibited aboard a wonder-horse, but in less salubrious environs, on board more humble animals. Look at his ride, for instance, on O’Neill’s Open Day in a lowly novice hurdle at Market Rasen in February.

Trading at 999-1 on the exchanges, the four-year-old gelding was content to trundle home in his own time. Then McCoy sprinkled his gold dust. Not through brute force, but shrewd cajoling allied with raw guile. Open Day was suddenly stirred into a jumping frenzy, vaulting each obstacle with the panache of Pegasus, eating up the Lincolnshire straight for a most unlikely victory.

While his triumph in the National was on a far bigger scale, the moral of the story was the same: McCoy is a multi-faceted rarity.

The greats of the game are remembered for winning great races, and now that McCoy has the complete set, casual observers might predict a happy retirement. Those who have witnessed the relentless genius of Tony McCoy at first hand will know otherwise.