Sir Anthony McCoy, knighted in 2016 for services to horse racing, was simply the greatest National Hunt jockey of all time. Born in Moneyglass, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland, McCoy rode his first winner on the British mainland, Chickabiddy, trained by Gordon Edwards, at Exeter in 1994, when conditional jockey to the late Toby Balding. By the end of the 1994/95 season, he had ridden 74 winners, enough to ride out his 7lb, 5lb and 3lb claim and, in fact, a record for a conditional jockey.
Having won the Conditional Jockeys’ Championship, McCoy proceeded to dominate National Hunt racing for the next two decades, winning the Jump Jockeys’ Championship every year until his eventual retirement. During a lengthy spell as stable jockey to Martin Pipe, which lasted for nearly a decade and yielded 1,154 winners, 100, 150, or even 200 winners became the norm, rather than the exception, as McCoy racked up championship after championship. In fact, in 2001/02, McCoy rode 289 winners in a season, beating the previous record held by Gordon Richards.
In 2004, McCoy accepted a retainer, reputedly worth £1 million a year, from leading owner John Patrick ‘J.P.’ McManus and, in his famous green-and-gold silks, continued his phenomenal career. His lowest seasonal total in the last decade or so of his career was 140 winners in 2007/08, a season which, by his own admission, was ‘turned upside down’, by a fall at Warwick in January. Damage to the vertebrae in the central section of his spine required an operation to insert metal plates, and cryotherapy, but he was still back in the saddle in time for the Cheltenham Festival in March.
All in all, McCoy rode 4,358 winners, including 31 at the Cheltenham Festival, and won most of the major races in the National Hunt calendar. His high-profile successes included the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice, the Champion Hurdle three times, the King George VI Chase and, of course, which he famously won, at the fifteenth time of asking, on Don’t Push It, owned by J.P. McManus and trained by Jonjo O’Neill. Having spent over two decades limiting himself to a single meal a day and sweating in hot baths to maintain his 5’10” frame at, or around, 9st 10lb, McCoy, unsurprisingly, gained over two stone in weight following his retirement.