Donn's Articles » AP McCoy – Five best rides

AP McCoy – Five best rides

Pridwell, Aintree Hurdle 1998

Istabraq was unbeatable. The reigning Champion Hurdler hadn’t been beaten in 10 runs and 18 months since he had made his debut over hurdles in November 1996 before he arrived at Aintree in April 1998 to contest the Aintree Hurdle. As usual, he was sent off the odds-on favourite, but McCoy and Pridwell beat him.

McCoy talks about encouraging horses rather than bullying them. He talks about getting horses to want to run for him rather than making them run for him. In the soft ground and through the rain that day, he convinced Pridwell that he wanted to run. He kicked and punched and drove and cajoled, and Pridwell stretched his neck out willingly and beat the brilliant Istabraq by a head.

Family Business, Feast of St Raymond Novices’ Chase 2002

Family Business was odds-on favourite for the three-mile novices’ chase at Southwell on 23rd January 2002, but he made a bad mistake at the 10th fence, slithered to the ground and unseated McCoy.

The jockey walked across to the inside of the track, disgusted with himself for falling off, and got into one of the Jeeps that would take him back to the weigh room. Then he noticed that four of the other horses in the seven-horse race had fallen, so he got out of the Jeep, and got back up on Family Business. By the time he did, the other two horses had fallen as well, so he hunted Family Business around, popped the remaining fences and came home alone.

Wichita Lineman, William Hill Trophy 2009

Wichita Lineman was backed down to favourite for the William Hill Trophy at the 2009 Cheltenham Festival, but he didn’t travel through the race like a favourite should. Deliberate at his fences and lacking fluency, McCoy was niggling him along as they ran down the back straight.

No better than 12th at the fence at the top of the hill, the fourth last, he was still just sixth as the field wheeled around the home turn and faced up to the final fence. Another stuttering jump at that obstacle seemed to end any lingering thread of hope that he still clutched, but McCoy got into his famous drive position on the run-in and, yard by yard, stride by stride, horse and rider gnawed away at Maljimar’s seemingly unassailable lead and got up to win by a neck.

Don’t Push It, Aintree Grand National 2010

The ride that McCoy gave Don’t Push It to win the Aintree Grand National in 2010 was top class, but the enormity of the occasion trumped even the quality of the ride.

By 2010, the champ had won every top National Hunt race in Britain and Ireland with the glaring exception of the Grand National. The most successful National Hunt rider in history had never won the most famous horse race in the world, and that was a notion that did not sit squarely.

All was put to rights at Aintree on 10th April 2010, when McCoy brought Don’t Push It home five lengths clear of Black Apalachi, and choked back the tears.

Synchronised, Cheltenham Gold Cup 2012

It had been 15 years since McCoy’s only previous Gold Cup win when he lined up in racing’s Blue Riband on Synchronised in March 2012.

Before they had gone a circuit, Synchronised appeared to be struggling. His jumping was not fluent, and he just seemed to be uncomfortable with the Gold Cup pace. As ever, however, McCoy persevered. Pushing and cajoling, he managed to keep his horse in touch until, going down the hill for the final time, he started to make ground on the leaders. He rounded the home turn in fifth place, jumped the second last in fourth, hooked to the outside, jumped the last in third, and cleared away up the run-in to record another memorable Gold Cup victory.

© The Sunday Times, 8th February 2015