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11 things you might not know about AP McCoy

After nearly two decades at the top of the sport, 19-time champion National Hunt jockey AP McCoy shocked fans at the weekend (Saturday 7 February) with the news that he is to retire at the end of the season.

With Cheltenham and Aintree still to come before the end of April, there are plenty of chances to see the champ in action.

But do you know what his first pony was called? Or which sport he’s also pretty nifty at?

1. The first time he sat on a horse he was just two years old. He was put on the back of his father Peadar’s thoroughbred broodmare Misclaire — later dam of Cheltenham Festival winner Thumbs Up.

2. His first pony was the virtually unrideable Seven Up, so called because of the number of times she often had to be remounted in a session. She was soon traded in for the much more amenable Chippy.

3. Luckily his shaky start with Seven Up didn’t dent his confidence, and AP’s first winner was at the age of 17 on the Flat — Jim Bolger-trained Legal Steps at Thurles in 1992. Two years later he claimed his first win over jumps on Riszard at Gowran Park.

4. The most famous face in racing, AP was the first jockey to be crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year (in 2010). In the same year he received an OBE, awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, following an MBE seven years earlier. Will a Knighthood be next? Arise Sir AP….

5. It’s far less dangerous — unless you’re hit in the head by a wayward ball — but his favourite sport to play away from racing is golf. AP’s handicap is 14 and he shares a birthday, 4 May, with fellow Northern Ireland sports icon Rory McIlroy, who is 15 years his junior.

6. He is a massive Gunners fan. A{ supports Arsenal FC, a habit picked up because Northern Ireland’s Pat Jennings was in goal when he was growing up.

7. AP might have won countless bottles of Champagne over the years, but there’s no bubbles for him — except in the bath — he’s teetotal and always has been.

8. Bookmakers reported a loss of £50 million after he won the 2010 Grand National on Don’t Push It, backed from 40-1 to 10-1 favourite on the day. After 15 attempts at the famous race he finally conquered the mighty fences in the green and gold colours of his long-standing owner JP McManus.

9. His favourite horse was Wichita Lineman and he has named his victory in the William Hill Trophy at Cheltenham six years ago, when he came from an impossible position under maximum pressure to win by a neck in the last stride, as his best-ever performance in the saddle. The gelding broke his neck in the Irish National next time out.

“I don’t often cry,” McCoy said later, “but when I realised he wasn’t going to get up, I did. He had such a great heart.”

10. AP has famously been on a diet for most of his life. At 5’ 10”, his natural bodyweight is around 12st. He has been known to ride at 10st. He’s very well acquainted with saunas and boiling hot baths spending more than two hours a day, six days a week, sweating in them. If he’s hungry

11. His first novel, Taking The Fall, was published in 2013, about talented but struggling conditional jockey Duncan Claymore. It was pretty racy and had housewives blushing. Maybe a career in fiction awaits? Move over EL James…

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