At last! Sir Anthony McCoy claims historic first Grand National triumph
First published on Sunday, April 11, 2010
Sir Anthony McCoy has been racing's champion during 14 record-breaking years, but yesterday he became the public's champion when he clinched the one success he craved more than any other.
There were two other men who had endured a long and fruitless pursuit of the John Smith's Grand National in owner JP McManus and trainer Jonjo O'Neill, but it was McCoy to whom it mattered most when Don't Push It carried him past the Aintree winning post at the 15th attempt.
When his previous efforts to win the prize have been thwarted, notably when Clan Royal was carried out by a loose horse when leading five years ago, McCoy has cut a frustrated and dejected figure, one resigned to being known as the best jockey never to win the National.
Yet yesterday, having had little expectation that Don't Push It would end the sequence, he shed tears as the barren run was halted in front of 70,341 racegoers. McCoy, accused in the past of being too driven and not smiling enough, admitted to being "a big wuss" as he dissolved at having overcome his greatest challenge.
He said: "It means everything to me to win the Grand National. I've won lots of big races and I'm supposed to be a good jockey, but to not win the National would be a bit of a negative on the CV.
"Everyone knows about the National, so from a public point of view to win the biggest race in the world means everything. At least I can feel now that I've done all right."
McCoy's wife Chanelle added: "This means the world to him. It's a very emotional day for a man who doesn't get too emotional."
McCoy owed his victory to McManus, who had four runners in the field, and particularly O'Neill, who had persuaded the jockey to pick Don't Push It over stablemate Can't Buy Time.
In truth McCoy had not rated any of the mounts available to him, but once yesterday's race got under way, after an initial false start, it was not long before he would be forced to revise that judgement.
Settling in the main body of the field, he bided his time as Conna Castle set a brisk pace. He held that advantage until well into the second circuit when persistent pursuer Black Apalachi moved ahead at Becher's Brook.
Denis O'Regan was travelling well on the Dessie Hughes-trained challenger and, with six fences to jump, there were only a handful still in with a serious chance. Ominously for O'Regan, one of them was McCoy on Don't Push It.
O'Regan poured on the pressure and had the measure of Big Fella Thanks and Hello Bud – who was giving 17-year-old amateur Sam Twiston-Davies a dream debut in the race – going to the last, but Don't Push It would not relent and McCoy had his day, driving his mount past on the run-in to win by five lengths. State Of Play came from well back to claim third.
McCoy said: "I felt after a mile this horse could win the National. I am aware how long it is in the straight. You are always worried about going too early, but every time I pulled him out and gave him a little bit of light, he picked up a little bit. He did run pretty well over three-mile-three in November with a big weight and I had it in the back of my mind that he would stay.
“My trainer put me on the right one. I couldn’t have picked it. He was very adamant and I couldn’t argue with him.
“The one thing this horse has is ability. A few years ago Denman beat him in a novice chase at Cheltenham. He fell twice at the downhill fence at Cheltenham in the Arkle and he fell in a handicap a year later, but he seemed to like what he was doing.”
Reminded that Mick Fitzgerald had described winning the race as “better than sex”, McCoy replied: “He’s got married again since! No comment. Ask someone else that question.”
McManus had had 33 runners in the race before yesterday and one of this year’s quartet was ruled out at the very start when King Johns Castle refused to race.
“AP has it on his CV and so have Jonjo and I,so we killed three birds with one stone,” he said. “It’s just a very, very special day for us all. AP really deserved to win this race and and I’m just so glad it was on one of mine.”
O’Neill never got further than the Canal Turn in seven attempts as a jockey and had had 15 failures since turning to training.
“Everybody wants to win the National,” he said. “You think it’s not going to happen. You are disappointed to get beat, but there is only one thing you do. It’s nice to complete what you want to do and it’s great for AP.”
Don’t Push It is a 20-1 shot to repeat his success next year, while McCoy is 10-1 with Coral to win BBC Sports Personality of the Year. He failed to make the shortlist last year but, asked about his prospects this time, retorted: “I don’t know what that is!”
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