The day has finally arrived for 20-time champion national hunt jockey Tony McCoy whose record-breaking career comes to an end at Sandown Park on Saturday afternoon when the sell-out crowd, the majority there to pay tribute to a sporting icon, will see the great man in action in two races, although the season’s final major handicap, the Bet365 Gold Cup, will be without the rider know simply as AP who will be sitting-out the historic three mile five and a half furlong chase.
Appropriately, both mounts are for retainer JP McManus, the first being the enigmatic Mr Mole in the race named in his honour, the AP McCoy bet365 Celebration Chase at 3.15. Hopefully, the son of Great Pretender will be on his best behaviour in an effort to provide a fairytale ending, but should the Paul Nicholls-trained seven-year-old fail to oblige it will be left to Jonjo O’Neill’s Box Office to send the crowd home happy with a victory in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle at 4.25.
In what is certain to be an emotional occasion, of which McCoy said in an interview with RTE: “It’s never going to be easy when the time comes, that is what is going to be most difficult, living without that. It’s not something I ever wanted to do but I know it’s the right thing and I’m just going to try to enjoy what’s left of it. It’s tough as I really enjoy what I do. What I’m going to replace that kind of buzz and those kind of adrenalin rushes with, I don’t know. It’s irreplacable so i just have to make the most of it when I do.”
While tomorrow will be tinged with an element of sadness at the end of one of the greatest sporting careers any of us are ever likely to witness in our lifetime, the important thing is that AP goes out at the height of his powers and with body and mind intact. As the recent career-ending injury to fellow countryman Davy Condon illustrates all to clearly, that in itself is an achievement to be cherished for all of those who risk their lives on a daily basis in the name of the sport we all love.