LONDON (Reuters) - With a stirring finish that epitomized his iron will, strength and ability to galvanize a tired horse, Tony McCoy, the most successful jump jockey of all time, rode his 4,000th winner on Thursday, a milestone unlikely to be matched.
Champion jockey for the last 18 seasons, the 39-year-old Irishman broke into a broad smile after driving 6-4 favorite Mountain Tunes to a narrow victory at Towcester racecourse in the English shires.
Aptly, the success came for trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner JP McManus, with whom McCoy has enjoyed so much success in the Irishman’s green and yellow striped silks.
“It’s amazing, it couldn’t have worked out any better for Jonjo, JP - the McManus’s have been so good to me, it was always going to be hopefully that I was going to ride it in JP’s colors,” McCoy told At The Races television.
McManus was there to greet his jockey and told reporters: “What a man and what a ride. I think he was more pleased because when he came in he said it was a nice horse!”
Surrounded by weighing-room colleagues, McCoy was showered with champagne and joined in the winners’ enclosure by his wife Chanelle and two young children, with five-year-old daughter Eve afforded the day off school.
McCoy’s 4,000 winners have come from 16,152 rides - a strike rate of 24.8 percent - and his feat in reaching the landmark can be put in perspective with Richard Johnson, the next most successful jump jockey, on 2,567.
Johnson, 15-times a runner-up to McCoy in the jockeys’ championship, was one of many to pay tribute.
“What he’s achieved has been amazing,” he said. “He has completely rewritten what we thought was achievable in a season, and a career.
“He rarely makes mistakes - you would struggle to think of one. He is a machine who turns out winners.”
McCoy has broken record after record in his relentless pursuit of winners since his first success as a 17-year-old in Ireland in 1992.
Helped by a flourishing partnership with trainer Martin Pipe, who churned out a seemingly endless supply of winners over jumps from his Somerset base, McCoy never looked back after riding his first winner in England in 1994.
He became the fastest jockey to 200 winners in a season in 1998 and the quickest to 1,000 career wins, taking just over five years.
In 2002 he broke the 55-year-old record of Gordon Richards for most winners in a season and went on to claim 289 winners that season.
His big-race wins include two Cheltenham Gold Cups - on Mr Mulligan in 1997 and Synchronized last year - three Champion Hurdles, and after 15 failed attempts, an emotional first Grand National victory at Aintree came his way in 2010 when he rode O’Neill and McManus’s Don’t Push It to victory.
His 4,000th win also coincided with the publication on Thursday of McCoy’s first novel “Taking The Fall”, a racing thriller.
As well as the highs, McCoy has had his fair share of body-shuddering lows. Jump jockeys risk serious injury every time they climb into the saddle and McCoy’s list is long and painful.
He has broken middle and lower vertebrae, both shoulder blades, both collar bones, ribs, ankle, cheekbones, wrist and leg.
Writing by Justin Palmer, editing by Ed Osmond and Alison Wildey