McCoy rides off like a hero into the sunset
Published 28/04/2015 | 00:00
In recent times rugby has lost a few legends, motorsport bid farewell to some of its icons, soccer always has a steady stream of farewells, and many G.A.A. stars often go quietly into that good night of sporting retirement.
But what about last weekend's adieu to the sport of jump riding by the adored figure of A.P. McCoy?
Surely it will go down as one of the most emotional and powerful farewells in sporting history as most of the 18,000 who packed into Sandown Park in Surrey and multitudes who watched in bars, sitting rooms, and betting shops around England and Ireland couldn't help but feel that lump in the throat or wipe away that lonely tear as they watched the 40-year-old sign off on a magnificent career.
The man himself shed tears before and after the final race in which he finished third and although the last two placings in his last pair of races were not the stuff of inspiration, the reaction from the crowd and his fellow jockeys was something to behold.
'It has been one of the hardest days in my life,' said McCoy and the Antrim man has surely given not any interviews that could have been more difficult than the one he gave on Channel 4 immediately after dismounting from Box Office, his final ride, when the emotion in him seemed to be getting the better of him.
'I'll have to start work now,' he said when he sat down to face the glare of the media while the trainer of Box Office, Jonjo O'Neill, joked that 'after that effort, he'll never ride for me again'.
McCoy has amassed a total of 4,348 wins in jump racing but the realist in him tells him that that record will be broken at some point in the future.
'I hope I'm dead,' he said cheerily, 'but all records get broken'.
The 'what next' question will have to wait until after a family holiday to Barbados and until after a trip to the Punchestown Festival this week that will see him also visiting the injured Robbie and J.T. McNamara, and the injuries and care to his fellow jockeys is something that is a real concern for the racing legend.
'I've got very little to be complaining about,' McCoy said as he discussed that last part of his plans.
'It will be nice to see the two lads and that'll put a lot of things in perspective, very quick.'
It was amazing to see one of the toughest athletes who ever competed being reduced to tears on board Box Office as the crowd cheered him after his last race.
On the last day of the jumps season, McCoy was given a guard of honour from fellow jockeys and serenaded by the entire grandstand who sang 'For he's a jolly good fellow' before he collected the trophy for champion jockey for a staggering 20th consecutive year.
'I've been privileged, doing something I absolutely loved. Good as I was, then that wouldn't have been right.'
McCoy's career has been peppered with injuries but he has shown his almost indestructibility by always recovering well.
McCoy has bounced back from 13 broken bones, 14 shattered teeth and, twice, punctured lungs so it's no wonder his wife Chanelle, attending with their two young children, looked so relieved.
A tearful McCoy said: 'It's amazing. I've been so lucky all my life. I'll never forget this day.'
Neither, I dare say, will the attendees in Sandown last weekend or the millions watching it on TV or the millions of people who have urged him on in races throughout his illustrious career or the young men who are starting out on the road to be a jockey and who will, rightly, hold A.P. McCoy up as the one to follow and, ultimately, as the one to beat.
Thanks for the fantastic memories!