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Thursday 26 April 2018

McCoy is riding better than ever, so why do we want to retire him?

Tony McCoy. Picture: David Davies/PA
Tony McCoy. Picture: David Davies/PA

FOR those of us into horse racing, we can just be glad that we are around to witness Tony McCoy in action.

In years to come, when we are all well gone, people will still be talking about this AP McCoy fella.

And dare I say it, they won't just be talking about him riding 4,000 winners – if he stays injury-free I think he will chase the 5,000 and as has been very evident throughout his career, what McCoy chases, he usually gets.

It was fantastic to see the reception he received in Navan on Sunday.

I think too that it was a measure of the man that instead of going straight back to the weighroom that he granted the photograph requests, and shook the hands of those on the far side of the rail.

For anyone with just a passing interest in sport, what McCoy has achieved should not be underestimated. His career is winners-based and to think that one fall could prevent him from riding for three-months or more at any one time just proves how dedicated to the cause he is. One in every 10 a jump jockeys rides is a faller on average.

The fact that he went to Southwell the following day to ride one in a bumper just proves how driven he still is to add to his tally.

He is a couple of winners into the next target and to be champion jockey 20 years running has to be his next major ambition.

 

Dangers

But there was nobody denying last week that Tony McCoy is riding better now than he ever has been, arguably riding even better than when he won the Grand National and got that hoodoo off his back. So why are we trying to retire him?

The dangers of the sport have never been more evident than they were this year and it's natural that McCoy's family would like him to stop now while he has nothing left to prove.

But that's not how his mind works and deep down his family know that too.

It would be the end of the 2019 season or thereabouts that would see him get to the 5,000-winner mark if he was to keep going at a somewhat similar ratio to what he is at now and at that, he would have been champion jockey for 24 consecutive years.

The very mention of 2019 and 24 consecutive champion jockey titles sounds ludicrous – not to mention the 5,000 winners – but he definitely wont walk away this year or next if he's in the full of his health.

And surely when a man with McCoy's mentality closes in on 4,500 he'll want to reach it and after that it will be the 4,870 of Gordon Richards and then the 5,000 won't seem too far away.

Who knows, though? McCoy will make his own mind up and speculating about his future is probably as foolish as thinking 20 years ago that any jump jockey could reach 4,000 winners.

One thing that did strike me over the course of the last week though – and this is to take nothing away from McCoy – was the exclusion of Ruby Walsh from people's minds.

McCoy was described as the greatest jockey of all time, the likes of which we will never see again.

He has definitely won on horses that others simply wouldn't. He has a mentality that no other jump jockey has been able to balance with sheer raw ability and he is an all-time great.

But to afford him the title of the greatest of all time could be a bit too loose when we have also lived through the Ruby Walsh era.

Walsh has ridden more than 2,200 winners with Paul Carberry the next Irish-based jump jockey on 1,510, and there is no doubt that Walsh, if based full-time in England for the last 20 years, would have easily been a lot closer to the magic 4,000 with racing almost every day over there.

Ruby himself is a majestic horseman in races. He has everything from strength to the tactical brain needed to mastermind championship races or muddling through small-field novice hurdles.

He may have never had the mentality or drive to achieve what McCoy did numerically, but that comes down to a different train of thought rather than ability on horseback.

I know I certainly wouldn't swap either of them if I had them riding for me.

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