AP McCoy: Ex-jockey Richard Dunwoody on life after retirement

By Frank KeoghBBC Sport
AP McCoy after his last race
McCoy makes his way through fans and media after his last race at Sandown

When the winning stops, the heartache begins. For some sports stars, this is the biggest hurdle of all - life without the same adrenaline, routine and success.

AP McCoy has feared this week after two decades at the top. The 20-times champion is now a former jump jockey.

Here, with the help of his boyhood idol Richard Dunwoody, friend and psychologist Michael Caulfield - plus the rider himself - we look at what the future holds.

As of now, everything changes.

Like a "massive bereavement"

McCoy, who rode a record-breaking 4,348 winners, has told how he will spend more time looking back as he has little to look forward to.

AP McCoy - "Unqualifed and unemployed"

He may be half joking but winning is a drug, and not competing any more brings a kind of cold turkey.

"When he does retire, for him it will be a massive bereavement. For me, that's the only way to describe it," his wife Chanelle once told me.

The McCoys have been focusing on the positives more recently - more time with the family, a chance to relax and see a wider spectrum of life.

They have two children - Eve, seven, and 20-month-old Archie Peadar (AP junior) - to keep them busy and the kids have given him a sense of perspective.

Don't expect McCoy to veer into a life of booze and gambling. He has always been teetotal and does not plan to bet because he has "an addictive personality".

Breakfasts and the school run

A friend texted McCoy on Monday morning: "What are you doing today - school run and signing on?"

The former jockey has spent most of the last 20 years beginning his day with an hour-long hot bath to dehydrate so he can lose weight to ride horses.

AP McCoy
McCoy's wife Chanelle, son Archie and daughter Eve were at his Sandown swansong

McCoy is relatively tall for a jockey, at 5ft 10ins, and was about 10st 3lb earlier this month when he rode at the Grand National meeting - a stone-and-a-half below his natural weight.

Baths and daily sauna visits were blamed for a low sperm count and his two children came along after fertility treatment.external-link

The 40-year-old weighed a little heavier after breakfast on Monday morning, and although some cheeky colleagues have already inquired after his smarter suits, he intends to go no higher than about 11 stone.

"I've got no idea really what's going to happen to be honest. I don't know," he told me.

"I haven't taken up cycling yet but I think I will as I've got a few mates who are into it. I might do that. I'd like to keep fit."

AP McCoy in numbers

Life out of the saddle

Fellow Northern Irishman Richard Dunwoody was the last champion jump jockey - in 1995 - before McCoy.

After his career was ended by injury, he has been on a range of adventures, from a 680-mile trek to the South Pole for charity to Strictly Come Dancing.external-link

Richard Dunwoody and AP McCoy
Dunwoody with McCoy, who was third that year, at the 2002 BBC Sports Personality awards

"I was hoping to get a remedy to my neck problem. That didn't come. In the end, doctors advised that I had to quit," says Dunwoody, a three-time champion jockey turned photographer, now aged 51,

"You do miss riding, that's part of it, which comes to all of us.

"Whether you're a footballer, a rugby player, you can't go on forever. You accept that, you enjoy the good times and the winners while you have them, and then you realise you have to go on and do other things. That's part of the job.

"I'm travelling. I'm away a lot. I see the odd racing result in the paper. On a Saturday afternoon, I will probably go and watch London Irish play rugby. I like watching MotoGP too."

Dunwoody on first meeting McCoy
"He was on the second horse and objected to me (claiming interference) winning at Galway in a hurdle race when he was 16 or 17.
"He was being a bit optimistic, but that kind of set the standard. He has an amazing will to win. He didn't get the race that day but he beat me a few times and it was quite nice when I managed to get in front of him.
"A trainer, Paddy Graffin, said to me: 'Watch this lad he's from the north of Ireland like yourself and I think he's a very good rider.'"
AP McCoy weeks at number one

Adapting to a new life

"He's one of the sharpest people I've met and that includes quite a few chief executives, leaders and politicians," says Michael Caulfield, who was boss of the Professional Jockeys' Association from 1988 to 2003.

AP McCoy: A tribute to the jump racing legend

He points to McCoy's investment in those around him - the secretary, the agents, the driver, the physiotherapist: "He made his life easier so he could ride horses more effectively."

Caulfield is now a sports psychologist, recently returned from working with Ireland at the Cricket World Cup, and whose clients have included Premier League footballers and Sussex County Cricket Club.

"I don't know whether going out there now as a former champion and sporting celebrity will be enough for AP because he's so competitive," he adds.

"He'll probably try to master a new trade somehow. He won't take the easy way out and just open a few betting shops - he'll need something to challenge him and he'll want to be in control."

AP McCoy & Ian Wright
McCoy received his 20th champion jockey trophy from former Arsenal striker Ian Wright

Arsenal fan McCoy is looking forward to being at his first FA Cup final when the Gunners play Aston Villa at Wembley on 30 May, and he has three pro-am golf days in the diary for May. He expects his handicap of 14 to be lower by the end of 2015.

He has enjoyed a successful broadcasting partnership with BBC Radio 5 live, has several after-dinner speaking events and is expected to be in demand for media work.

There will be some kind of role with racehorse owner JP McManus, although he has not previously appeared keen on a training career.

McCoy is rated favourite by bookmakers to be voted Sports Personality for a second time in December, and with a movie-style documentary 'Being AP' and new autobiography planned for the autumn, he will remain in the public eye.

He is also working on a second novel, featuring the fictional jockey Duncan Claymore, whose racier antics are said to have been inspired by dual Grand National-winning rider Carl Llewellyn.

But when the big jumps meetings start again in November, that is when the new reality will really hit home for the reluctant retiree.

A more mature McCoy
McCoy has mellowed since his younger days when he brooded on losers. He once ordered Chanelle out of the house for having a crafty cigarette.
"He was driven by a fear of failure, and was hooked on winning. Until the latter stages of his career, he could be an ungracious loser. He knows that. He went to some pretty dark places," says Caulfield.

Missing the thrills and spills

McCoy says he is "too stubborn" to go back on his retirement decision, although you can sense some regret when I ask which horses he will miss riding next season.

AP McCoy after winning on Carlingford Lough at Leopardstown in February
McCoy won the Irish Hennessy on Carlingford Lough a day after announcing in February he would retire

He lists them easily - Alvisio Ville could be a nice steeplechaser, More Of That might bounce back from injury to be a Cheltenham Gold Cup horse, There's My Tent Or Yours, Uxizandre - the list goes on.

"If you ask me could I be a footballer, have played golf, or whatever, I wouldn't have rather done anything than be a jump jockey," he reflects.

"In terms of adrenaline rush, the feel of it, the people you meet, the colleagues you have, just the whole sport. I have been so blessed. The only wish is that I could do it all again."

So could he return?

"I know people who love what they do, but with him it is beyond that - it's a reason to be alive. He just absolutely loves it, even the hard bits," says Caulfield.

"Richard and AP both had to waste (to lose weight). In a perverse way, he thrived on it - he thought pain was something in the mind, and he never once lost his nerve.

"Woody maybe struggled a bit because it came suddenly and was taken away from him, but AP has prepared as best he can.

"One thing about this man is he will never go back on his word. He will never ride a horse again as a professional jockey. That is an absolute certainty."

Dunwoody advice for McCoy
"I had a very good chat at dinner with him recently. He's going to have a lot of offers. It's important not to rush.
"He's pretty financially secure. He can afford to take time out and do something he really enjoys, give him a bit of drive, and that he can really get his head stuck into.
"He'll find it. His family will keep him pretty balanced. He and his wife Chanelle have got business interests. There is a lot of life in front of AP. He'll enjoy it as much as anyone."

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