Fittingly, for a man whose epic achievements in the saddle have more than a whiff of Hollywood about them, the greatest jump jockey of all time, AP McCoy, rode off into the sunset on Saturday on a horse called Box Office.
But the blockbuster script, which has seen McCoy race more than 16,000 times, did not deliver the ending the racing world desired. He could manage only third in the 4.25 at Sandown as he brought the curtain down on a career that has seen him victorious on more than 4,300 occasions.
Earlier in the day, McCoy, born in Co Antrim, Northern Ireland, had taken to Twitter to express his gratitude to fans for their support in what was an emotional day for everyone in racing. “Thanks for all the good wishes, I’ve been so lucky to live my life as a jockey thanks to everyone who helped me make all my dreams come true,” he tweeted.
In front of a sell-out 18,000 crowd at Sandown, the smiling 40-year-old was crowned champion jockey for the 20th consecutive time. The avid Arsenal fan was presented with the champion’s trophy by former Gunners striker Ian Wright. McCoy, who has held the title since 1996, is the only man to have lifted that trophy, and is now allowed to keep it permanently.
The leading lights of the racing world vied with each other for superlatives as they tried to describe a colossus of sport.
“He was so damn good that he always made you try harder,” said fellow jockey Ruby Walsh, a friend of McCoy’s. “He has set standards and targets that are going to be in the history books for a long, long time and to be able to say I rode with him, and beat him the odd time, is a privilege.”
Walsh drew parallels with other sporting greats. “He’s just brilliant. What makes Messi, what makes Ronaldo, what makes Federer, what made any of them? They are just unbelievably talented.”
Martin Pipe, the 15-time champion trainer, declared McCoy “the best we have ever seen. He has such a dedication to winning. It’s been a privilege to know him. It’s very emotional, we will miss him tremendously,” Pipe said. “He would never admit defeat, he was always trying to win.”
McCoy’s steely determination was apparent in his relentless pursuit of horseracing’s most famous trophy. By 2010, he had won every major race, including the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and Champion Chase, but the Grand National continued to elude him, despite 14 attempts. Then, at the 15th time of asking, he romped home by five lengths on Don’t Push It. – From The Guardian.