Force of nature McCoy registers 4,000th jumps winner at a packed Towcester
First published November 8, 2013
Amazing, awesome, unbelievable. Three adjectives repeatedly thrown up into the Northamptonshire air by those who had just witnessed Tony McCoy underline why he, only he, could reach the monumental feat of 4,000 jumps winners.
Following a winning spare ride in the Chepstow mud aboard Minella For Steak, McCoymania decamped to Towcester, where the equation was simple: one winner required from two rides.
As settings go for a piece of sporting history, Towcester takes some beating. Trees line part of the course, before the stiff uphill finish in front of the grandstands. A fine embodiment of what jumps racing should look like at the height of autumn with the sun shining. It provided a fitting arena.
An hour before racing there is a genteel buzz around the track. Pints have been consumed in the various bars, with conversations becoming more animated. A first sighting of the champ outside the weighing room reveals a relaxed McCoy chatting with his family, before he takes time to sign racecards and pose for photos.
Neil Carter is among those to come away with a racecard adorned with McCoy's signature, having made the journey from Lichfield hoping to see history unfold. "He's so dedicated and deserves every success," Carter says.
As McCoy disappears inside, wife Chanelle, glamorous in an elegant pink coat and chocolate brown hat, offers her take on the countdown to 4,000.
"He's been very cool about it, but I've just been nervous about him getting an injury," she says.
Daughter Eve has made arguably a bigger sacrifice to be present for the occasion, as her birthday party for turning six tomorrow has been postponed. However, Dad has promised her an extra present to make up for the disappointment.
Eve is not alone in having to wait to celebrate, as drinks, food and a DJ have been kept on ice at The Outside Chance, a pub McCoy owns with Howard Spooner and Guy Sangster.
Chanelle adds: "The marquee has been set up and we have a DJ booked, but it's quite awkward when you can't tell them when they'll be needed."
With cameras tracking his every movement, McCoy comes out for the first of his two rides: Church Field for Jonjo O'Neill and boss JP McManus, both of whom are in attendance.
The three share a joke in the parade ring, creating the passable illusion it is just a normal Thursday afternoon.
McCoy travels in mid-division for the first portion of the race, an expectant hush in the stands peppered by occasional shouts of encouragement. However, it is not to be. A scruffy leap three out has him soon shoving along, and he can manage only fifth.
An hour later, the situation is repeated, with McCoy escorted to the parade ring to be reunited with O'Neill and McManus. His mount may be favourite, but not everyone in attendance is convinced with local racegoer Richard Ward decreeing his chance has been and gone. "I hope he does it, but I think his other ride was his best chance," he says.
As the field circles at the start, the nerves rise, including for racecourse manager Kevin Ackerman. A crowd in excess of 4,000 is more than double what the meeting normally attracts, and he says: "It's an immense day and I'm hoping he does it because it'd be great to be part of history for a course that normally doesn't grab headlines."
As the field jumps off, McCoy settles at the rear on Mountain Tunes with the crowd now offering more vocal support. Having crept into the race the volume goes up as rounding the home turn McCoy sets off in pursuit of the leaders. Two out he is third but seemingly held. Cue another piece of McCoy magic.
Although Mountain Tunes starts to stay on between the final two flights, an awkward jump at the last, cannoning off Panama Petrus, seems to dash any chance, with leader Kris Spin five lengths clear.
But McCoy is a master of rescuing seemingly lost causes, and steadily he starts to bridge the gap. Sensing victory has become a real possibility the crowd reaches full cry, and with the finishing line fast approaching, McCoy and Mountain Tunes hit the front to spark an outpouring of cheering and applause.
Relief is the overriding emotion in the winner's enclosure, as O'Neill and Chanelle express their pleasure at watching their man reach the milestone. The legend's wife sums up the thoughts of many when she says: "It's a massive relief, he really made us scream for it. I thought he was beat."
The champagne has started flowing, weighing-room buddy Andrew Thornton showering the champ, while the crowd is subsequently invited to get in the spirit of the occasion by McManus, who promises to buy everyone a drink.
Most importantly, it is confirmed Eve's party will be held next week. At the end of an unforgettable, emotional day, everyone is happy.
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