'There's nowhere bigger than Cheltenham': AP McCoy ahead of Gold Cup

Northern Irish jockey and Gold Cup winner AP McCoy

Cheltenham Festival's Gold Cup race is "the most amazing race" and "so hard to win", according to veteran jockey AP McCoy.

Sir Anthony Peter McCoy OBE, known as AP or Tony McCoy, won the Gold Cup in 1997 with Mr Mulligan, and then again 16 years later with Synchronised in 2012.

In total, the Northern Irish race horse jockey rode a record 4,358 winners, and was Champion Jockey a record 20 consecutive times, every year that he was a professional.

Speaking to ITV West Country, Mr McCoy said: "I think the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year is the most amazing race and look, it's so hard to win.

"Cheltenham is, like any big sporting event be it Wimbledon or St Andrews or Twickenham... Any big sporting event, you want to be able to perform and there's nowhere bigger than Cheltenham."

One of AP McCoy's Gold Cup victories, marked up at Cheltenham.

He added he believes all athletes are motivated by an "egotistical thing" at major sporting events like Cheltenham Festival.

"That's what sport is all about, I think there's an egotistical thing in every elite sportsperson especially. I actually genuinely believe that they believe at big events that people are there to watch them - and it's about winning.

"In this day and age, I tell the kids, 'its great to take part and it's great to be involved and all that, but you want to win'.

"Sport is all about winning", he added.

Mr McCoy also touched on some of his own victories at Cheltenham Festival.

He said: "My most memorable day, I think, was winning the Cheltenham Gold Cup in 2012 on a horse called Synchronised for JP McManus who I rode for a large number of years.

"He has bought a lot of horses trying to win the Gold Cup and Synchronised's mum was called Mayasta. [It] was the first horse I ever rode from them, it won in 1996 in Punchestown, and Mayasta bred Synchronised. So, his wife, Noreen, actually bred him his only Gold Cup winner.

"So, there was a lot of history with Synchronised, so Synchronised was definitely my greatest day in Cheltenham."

But Mr McCoy also recalls being starstruck when meeting fellow jockey Richard Dumwoody.

"Richard Dumwoody was champion jockey when I came into the wareroom for the first time and I think in life you look at people. I had this thing where I was into facts, really. Richard Dumwoody was statistically the best jockey ever.

"I'm not from a racing family, I never had a coach or anything like that. But I wanted to look at who was the best and think 'I want to be like him, I want to try and pick little snippets off him and things that might get me close to his level'. I was never as good as him.

"But I think that's the same in any walk of life. I think you should look up to the people who are the best and try and be like them."

The Cheltenham Gold Cup race begins on Friday 15 March at 3:30pm.

Many former jockeys, such as AP McCoy will be looking on to see who is the best of the next generation.