McCoy and Disney - two men cut from the same cloth
13 February 2015
In an age where risk assessment and health and safety have come to the fore it is fair to say that we will never see a champion National Hunt rider like Tony McCoy again.
McCoy has dominated the sport for almost a generation, and perhaps in two decades Jumps racing will no longer be the same sort of landscape on which the colossus has trod. Look what has happened to the Grand National.
When yo-yos are banned from playgrounds, kettles from offices and even knives removed from certain kitchens, the sight of a bloodied McCoy returning from a fall, or nursing a broken bone, is a vision of a man looking pain in the eye, and winning, that may not last.
McCoy’s retirement last Saturday was dramatic, and exposed horribly how ill-prepared the sport was to the departure of the 19-times champion.
As pointed out in Tanya Stevenson’s column, it is not only the spectators, trainers and owners who will miss the most dedicated rider there has been, but a large band of punters will, too.
McCoy is box office, as evidenced by the news of his retirement appearing on the front cover of the main Sunday papers last week – even Jeff Stelling temporarily halted Soccer Saturday to deliver the news on Sky Sports.
McCoy’s magic is a gruesome one. When he can, he simply bullies a horse over the line. He has done this over 4000 times.
Of course out of the saddle he is funny, humble, accommodating to the public and an indefatigable father and husband, and in his relative old age it is quite clear he has changed. As with most things, he has made the right call. Retirement is perfectly timed.
McCoy has planned his swansong, however, which seems most unlike him. Some might even call it indulgent. His agent Dave Roberts went for dinner a few days before Mr Mole won the Game Spirit Chase and the jockey delivered that bombshell. The two planned for McCoy to announce he would be stepping down from the saddle after his 200th winner this season.
The man who chased the colour black around a dark room after the tragic loss of Valiramix in 2002 would surely not have thought in this way.
McCoy has every right to be lauded to the rafters for his achievements, but at Sandown on Friday Captain Guy Disney showed the sport what true humility means.
Disney is cut from the same cloth as McCoy. The 31-year-old was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while out on patrol in Afganistan, after which he had his leg amputated below the knee.
Disney then trekked to the South Pole with the Walking With The Wounded team and rides in Point To Points.
Where in Saturday’s national dailies there might have been reams of copy about Disney’s historic ride at Sandown, where he became first person to ride under Rules in Britain with a prosthetic leg when third on Ballyallia Man, there may well be a limited report on his exploits.
Disney politely declined to speak to Racing UK both before and after the Royal Artillery Gold Cup. He politely declined to speak to the representatives of the national media. Even when the Duchess Of Cornwall asked for an audience with the rider a message came from the weighing room that he was in the shower.
It was left to Jody Sole, rider of Cowards Close, the winner, to explain Disney’s actions.
“People do not understand he doesn’t want to talk to the press. He is an entire person,” Sole said.
“I completely understand why Guy does not want this to be about him. It’s not, it is about racing.”
When we are all old and grey, and at the going down of the sun, we will remember people like Disney and McCoy. It will be hard not to.
Geoffrey Riddle's Saturday tip:
2.55 Haydock - Gas Line Boy at 10-1 generally available