AP McCoy may have failed to produce a fairytale finish to his extraordinary career with a winner on his final racecourse appearance but, on an emotional afternoon, no one seemed to care.
McCoy, champion jockey for the past 20 seasons with more than 4,000 winners, finished third in his final-ever ride when he partnered the Jonjo O’Neill-trained and aptly named Box Office, the race won by Brother Tedd, who was ridden by his long-time rival, Richard Johnson.
In McCoy’s only other ride of the afternoon, he also had to settle for third on the Paul Nicholls-trained runner, Mr Mole, in the bet365 AP McCoy Celebration Chase, won by Special Tiara.
The lack of a winner, though, did nothing to dampen a rousing send-off. A tearful McCoy said: “It’s been a very emotional day and thanks to everyone for coming. I’ve been very lucky and very blessed to have the life I’ve had. I’m a little embarrassed by everything’s that’s gone on, but I feel very privileged.”
O’Neill is under no illusions about the hole McCoy will leave in his Jackdaws Castle set-up, and said: “He’s the greatest man in the game. He’s good to work with, a true professional. What I can say does not justify how great he is. We will not see the like of him again.”
Johnson, who has been runner-up to McCoy in the Jockeys’ Championship 15 times, added: “From a racing point of view, I’m quite glad he won’t be there to do me on the line before the winning post comes. But his career speaks for itself and I’m sure we’ll all miss him.”
The 40-year-old’s departure marks the end of his long domination of the National Hunt sphere, which yielded 31 Cheltenham Festival winners as well as two Gold Cups and one famous Grand National success. McCoy bows out having dominated the jockeys’ title for two decades, and received his 20th trophy before his ride on Mr Mole yesterday.
McCoy has yet to announce what he will do next, but admits his challenge will be the transition to life outside of the weighing room. He said: “Training is not an option and I don’t do comebacks. I have been in racing so long it will take a little while to get out of that regime and start to eat like a normal person.
“From my own personal point of view, announcing it when I did was the best thing for me.
“I just wish it could go on a little longer.”