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Cornelius Lysaght column

Cornelius Lysaght
By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC racing correspondent

There is a very good story about the time Tony McCoy's PA Gee Bradburne told her boss that she was planning to take part in the London Marathon.

"Are you going to win?" inquired the champion jockey of Bradburne, herself (as Gee Armytage) an accomplished rider during the 1980s. When the obvious response came back, he said: "What's the point of taking part then?"

Tony McCoy
McCoy is without equal in National Hunt racing

The story tells much about McCoy, known variously as Tony, AP or Anthony, but widely recognised as a racing colossus.

A steely, almost frightening, will-to-win has delivered 13 and a half championships (the 14th for the current season is almost in the bag), and now the remarkable total of 3,000 jumping winners in Britain and Ireland, and counting.

And all that despite the fact that danger and potential injury are constant galloping companions, and spirit-sapping dieting is part of everyday life.

Ever since McCoy's first ever victory, winning has been what it's all about for the Ulsterman. He simply cannot bear the thought of not being successful, and although the petulant days of weighing-room doors being slammed or riding helmet hurled are long gone, defeats still leave McCoy visibly furious.

But that hatred of being beaten is only part of the equation as any of the thousands who back him daily at the big occasions like Cheltenham or Sandown or at the more bread and butter racing fixtures staged at locations such as Sedgefield or Wincanton will attest.

In fact, win number 2,998, achieved at Wincanton, on Stradbrook on Thursday is a perfect example. The horse, owned by businessman JP McManus, McCoy's boss, was one of three horses involved in a thrilling finish, and despite the obvious strength of the other two riders somehow the champion jockey managed to squeeze that extra ounce out of his mount to win.

The same kind of thing happens practically every day in a manner that's sometimes little short of miraculous, even uncanny. The same applies to the 34-year-old's fortitude.

Archive - Iceman McCoy in deep freeze

In 2008 McCoy yet again defied medical opinion, this time returning to action barely two months after breaking his back, and in time for the Cheltenham Festival. Anyone who does that has to be hard.

Perceived wisdom in some quarters is that McCoy is as deadly serious, unsmiling and granite-faced in real life as he is on the track. But such an assessment is to get the man totally wrong.

A dry, self-deprecating wit is never far away, especially when discussing his famously unsuccessful Grand National record (no better than third).

And, however peppered with racing, conversations swerve very easily away to other sports, notably latest thoughts about Arsenal or Tiger Woods. Now married to Chanelle and joined in 2007 by daughter Eve, talk inevitably turns to just how long he will ride on.

The same polite answer follows every time: "until somebody takes the title off me". He simply cannot countenance being second best.

But a glance at the formbook (he's miles clear of nearest rival Richard Johnson) indicates such a moment is probably some time off yet.

McCoy himself is too diplomatic to say much about a wider public recognition, but it's a frustration within jump racing as a whole that a person who's held such total, brilliant domination over his sport for so long- nearly 15 years, far longer than anyone else in theirs - does not receive more acknowledgement.

Perhaps this latest, extraordinary feat will go some way towards filling that particular gap.

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see also
McCoy earns landmark 3,000th win
09 Feb 09 |  Horse Racing
Master Minded triumphs at Sandown
06 Dec 08 |  Horse Racing
McCoy boosts Down Royal meeting
28 Oct 08 |  Horse Racing
McCoy desperate for National win
01 Apr 08 |  Horse Racing
McCoy passed fit for Cheltenham
07 Mar 08 |  Horse Racing
McCoy misses out
08 Dec 02 |  Sports Personality 2002
McCoy beats winners record
27 Aug 02 |  Horse Racing
McCoy beats Richards' record
02 Apr 02 |  Horse Racing

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