Retiring champion jockey Tony McCoy believes he has over achieved in his career.
Barring injury, McCoy will be crowned champion jockey for an unbelievable 20th successive year.
So dominant has he been throughout his time in the saddle that, since turning professional in 1995, he has known nothing other than being the pre-eminent jockey of his generation, and prior to that he was the champion conditional jockey on his only other season in England.
He has not just broken records set by other jockeys, he has obliterated them, but the modest Northern Irishman feels his success is more down to hard work than talent.
Speaking to talkSPORT, McCoy said: “It will be something that I’ll really miss, there’s no doubt about that. I’ve no regrets whatsoever because I really think I’ve over achieved to be honest. I think there’s been as many good jockeys as I have been, not being arrogant I think I’ve done well for myself.
“A lot of what I’ve achieved has just been through working hard and the fear I might never achieve them again and that’s probably what is making me retire, the thought it might never happen again.”
McCoy announced his intention to retire after riding his 200th winner of the season on Mr Mole in the Grade Two Game Spirit Chase live on Channel 4 Racing, but he admits even then he was still wondering if the decision was the right one.
“Dave Roberts [his agent] was waiting when Mr Mole pulled up and asked if I was OK and I had to ask him if it was the right thing to do even then, so I was having second thoughts even at that point,” said McCoy. “It is the right thing, though.
“I’d been thinking about it for some time. When I was asked I jokingly said I’d been thinking about it for five years but it was then when I set my benchmark of winning the title 20 times and that was always in my head. So, in some ways, I had sort of decided then.”
McCoy had one unconquered frontier as he wanted to ride 300 winners in one season, his Holy Grail, and this year it looked on until a bad injury he picked up in early October at Worcester put paid to it.
“I’ve been very lucky, I had a very good start to the season this year, my fastest 50th and 100th winners and I genuinely thought I was going to ride 300 winners this season,” he said.
“Then I got injured one day at Worcester, I dislocated my collarbone, broke two ribs and punctured my lung and I went back riding three days after that thinking I couldn’t afford to have any time off if I was going to ride 300 winners.
“I got another fall and dislocated again and it was just a disaster so I had to have three weeks off. Through those three weeks I was a bit broken mentally, to be honest, as I’d got to the point where I’d won the championship for coming up 20 years yet I genuinely believed I was getting better.
“When that happened, the time had sort of come but I wanted to make sure I was going to win another championship first and in the last week or so, getting closer to 200 winners, I’d spoken to JP [McManus, retained owner] about it and Dave and I decided it would be good to announce it after riding 200 winners as that is a bit of an achievement and I wanted to announce it on a high.
“Most of all I wanted to retire when I was champion jockey, I’ve spent 20 years of my life chasing it and I’m still as I want to be and maybe I just need a break from that. When I got injured and realised 300 had gone I suppose that told me. Riding 200 is a big thing, only a handful of people have ever done it before, Peter Scudamore was the only jump jockey. I’m not one to blow my own trumpet but it’s not an easy thing to do. You have to stay in one piece but most of the time you’re not in one piece, it’s mind over matter.
“For anyone to have longevity in sport you have to really enjoy it and I do, but there’s been times it has drove me mad and I’ve been sitting in a dark room wondering what is going on in my life. I’ve always felt I could never get where I wanted to go, chasing something I could never catch but I think the time is right.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do, it’s something I’ve never thought about because all I ever wanted to do was be a jockey and I always said I’d never think about it until I couldn’t do that any more. I honestly don’t know when I’ll stop. I decided this would be my last season and Dave said I should announce it beforehand. Other things were discussed like going out on a winner but I honestly don’t know.
“I’ll ride at Cheltenham and Aintree but after that I don’t know whether it will be the last day of the season or go out on a winner, we’ll get the big meetings out of the way first.
“After I’d announced it, I was gutted. I’d love to change my name and come back next season, minding my own business having another go but I think it’s important that I’ll be champion jockey for hopefully 20 years and I think it’s important to retire at the top rather than people asking me why I’m not winning.
“Falling at the first in the next [on Goodwood Mirage] was a real leveller, it’s part and parcel of the game.”