• ESPN Sports Personality of the Year

Tony McCoy - A long quest comes to an end

ESPN staff
December 23, 2010

At 2 in our list for ESPN Sports Personality of the Year is a man who added the missing thing off his CV in 2010.

Champion jockey on 15 occasions, a Gold Cup winner, a Champion Hurdle victor on three occasions and victories in the Champion Chase and King George VI Chase all figure on McCoy's CV. A glittering CV, but there was one thing missing: a Grand National win.

It did appear that the Grand National would elude the Ulsterman, as he had suffered a number of near misses - third-place finishes on Blowing Wind (twice - 2001 and 2002) and Clan Royal (2006). On the latter horse, he was going like the winner in 2005 as he held a huge lead at Becher's Brook on the second circuit when taken out by a riderless horse.

McCoy made his name in racing on a never-say-die attitude and his ability to seemingly lift horses to victory from what looked hopeless positions endeared him to the public. As such, come Grand National day his mounts were always subject to strong support. It was no different in 2010, as he partnered the talented but error prone Don't Push It. Owned by legendary Irish gambler JP McManus, a man who was also in search of his first win in the Grand National, the 10-year-old was backed in from a morning price of 25/1 to 10/1 joint favourite by the off.

There was never any doubt about Don't Push It's class, but he ticked few boxes of a Grand National winner. He had a propensity to belt a fence or two and was far from guaranteed to see out the four-and-a-half-mile trip but he did have a quirky story that is often attached to winners of the great race.

Trainer Jonjo O'Neill had to handle Don't Push It with kid gloves and his training regime consisted of spending a lot of his time out in a field with only sheep for company. This did not put off the punters and for once, things went smoothly for McCoy.

"After a mile I turned to Davy Russell and wanted to tell him that I thought I'd win at that stage," he said. "I wouldn't have swapped him for anything."

McCoy's confidence was not misplaced as his mount jumped superbly throughout, took the lead at the second last and ran on powerfully up the long straight to secure a five-length win and with it the runner-up berth in our Sports Personality of the Year, as well as an OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

"He's always had a few mental problems which makes two of us," McCoy said of the horse that broke his Grand National duck. "That's probably why we get on so well. I had a choice of two horses today and the trainer put me on the right one, he steered me towards Don't Push It. But I'm delighted for JP McManus because he is the best supporter this game has ever had and ever will have. I am very, very privileged that I rode a Grand National winner in these colours."

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