McCoy farewell fever dominates National build-up

Thu Apr 9, 2015 10:55pm EDT
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By Ian Chadband

LIVERPOOL (Reuters) - A giant illuminated image of Tony McCoy beams out from Liverpool's famous Liver Building this week as the Grand National, Britain's most iconic horse race, stands in thrall to the man with a claim on being the nation's greatest sportsman.

McCoy, the 40-year-old jump jockey from Northern Ireland who has broken seemingly every bone in his body as well as every record in the book, is favorite to win Saturday's 168th edition of the race aboard Shutthefrontdoor in what will be his record 20th and final National ride.

After a peerless, fearless career, McCoy, about to be crowned champion jockey for the 20th successive year after riding over 4,350 winners, will retire at the season's end later this month -- but if he wins his second National on Saturday, he promises to quit there and then.

As the three-day race festival began on Thursday, Liverpool seemed to be swooning to McCoy-mania, with the great man's image being projected across the Mersey, alongside the proclamation: "The Greatest Jockey, the Greatest Race."

On Thursday, before a mixed day which saw him win the day's big prize, the Aintree Hurdle, on Jezki and then take a fall in a later race, he was inducted into the racecourse's Hall of Fame as fans queued to scrawl their own tributes on a "Thank you A.P" signature wall.

An inevitable national punt on a McCoy win could conceivably cost bookmakers £50 million, an idea which tickles him.

"That would be nice, probably one of my greatest achievements if I could end my career by costing the bookmakers a lot of money," he told Reuters at Aintree on Thursday.

Saturday, though, inspires mixed emotions in him. "In some ways I really, really want to win the Grand National; in other ways I don't really, really want to retire.   Continued...

Horse Racing - Cheltenham Festival - Cheltenham Racecourse - 12/3/15
Tony McCoy on Uxizandre celebrates after winning the 14:40 Ryanair Chase
Action Images via Reuters / Matthew Childs Livepic